The above-mentioned measures were recommended by scientists as a first step until more information was collected on the behavioural relationships between cetaceans and fisheries in order to design more comprehensive strategies. This is why, in addition to the short-term measures outlined above, greater knowledge must be gained through monitoring of fishing activities and improved assessment and surveillance of cetacean populations.
The Commission proposes therefore that Member States put in place, as a matter of priority, on-board observer schemes to monitor cetacean by-catches in the fisheries identified as presenting a high risk where pelagic trawls or gillnets are used. In the case of vessels to which the observer scheme cannot be applied for security or any such reason, Member States must establish alternative methods of independent monitoring at sea.
The Commission is proposing minimum levels of coverage by on-board observers. These vary from 10% of the fishing effort using driftnets in the Baltic to 5% using pelagic trawls to the west of Scotland, around Ireland down to the Bay of Biscay and in the Mediterranean. 5% is also the level proposed for bottom-set gillnets or entangling nets in the Baltic, the Celtic shelf and the Channel.
By-catch mitigation and monitoring obligations already existed under the provisions of the 1992 Habitats Directive 92/43/EC). However, their implementation was insufficient and uneven across Member States. This proposal provides a better definition of these obligations and stipulates priorities to ensure equity in their application across Member States.