Analysis

Pew Calls on EU Fisheries Ministers to Act to End Overfishing

Brussels–The European Commission today published its Communication on Fishing Opportunities for 2015, which serves as a guide to the state of fish stocks in the European Union. It also gives an indication of the Commission’s commitment to swiftly implementing the reformed Common Fisheries Policy, which requires an end to EU overfishing by 2015 where possible and by 2020 at the latest.

According to the Communication there is an increase in overfished stocks from 39 to 41 percent in the North-East Atlantic and adjacent waters. In 2013, 16 of 41 assessed stocks were overfished, increasing to 19 of 46 in 2014. The Communication also indicates that in addition to the increase in the number of stocks being overfished, the rate of overfishing rose as well. In 2012, fisheries ministers set fishing limits an average of 11 percent above the scientific advice; in 2014 the average limits were significantly higher, at 35 percent above scientific recommendations.

Uta Bellion, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ European marine programme, issued the following statement in response to the Communication: “In the last two years, at the same time that they were agreeing on a Common Fisheries Policy reform to end EU overfishing, fisheries ministers have gone back to setting fishing limits significantly above scientific advice. This Communication is a wakeup call to all EU citizens to press decision-makers to show as much ambition in implementing the Common Fisheries Policy as they did in reforming it.”

To reverse the trend of EU overfishing and deliver sustainable EU fisheries, the European Commission and Council of fisheries ministers must:

  • Set fishing limits in accordance with scientific advice so that fish stocks can recover above levels capable of producing the maximum sustainable yield, or MSY.
  • Agree that delays in ending overfishing in 2015 can be allowed only if they are based on evidence of serious social and economic hardship to the fishing fleets involved—and with clear plans in place to end overfishing for the relevant fish stocks as soon after 2015 as possible.
  • Ensure that any increase in quota for stocks subject to the discards ban on unwanted fish—the landing obligation—is subject to supporting evidence from International Council for the Exploration of the Sea and limited in scope.

On July 2, Pew distributed its preliminary reaction to the member state officials responsible for handling the Commission Communication. To read the reaction, click here.

Pew and partner nongovernmental organizations have asked that the July 14 EU Fisheries Council meeting, which will include debate about the Commission Communication, be web streamed. To read the letter, click here.

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