European Fisheries Must Go 'Back to the Future'

European Fisheries Must Go 'Back to the Future'

Beginning June 4, the OCEAN2012 coalition will launch the second annual European Fish Week (June 4th - 12th 2011). More than 40 events throughout Europe and one in Africa will engage the public in calling for an effective reform of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). This collective action coincides with World Oceans Day on June 8 and the anticipated publication of the European Commission's proposal for a reformed CFP in mid-July.

During this week of action, OCEAN2012 member groups are inviting EU citizens to witness the impact overfishing has had on the marine environment and learn how the EU's CFP reform is an opportunity to go back to the future.

“During European Fish Week, we will be collecting stories and evidence of the past richness of our seas and fishing communities and telling fisheries minister that we want it back,” said Uta Bellion, director of the Pew Environment Group's European Marine Programme and OCEAN2012 co-ordinator. “The story of fishing in Europe to date is a tragic tale of overexploitation of the seas that has reduced their abundance and productivity and weakened the fishing communities dependent on them. The current reform of the Common Fisheries Policy could reverse this trend and ensure a sustainable future for fishing communities across Europe.”

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Census of Marine Life's History of Marine Animal Populations project, evidence of Europe's lost fisheries is clear:

  • In 1900, the average length of cod landed in the North Sea was 1 to1.5 metres, and the average age was eight to 10 years. Today, the average length of landed cod is a mere 50 centimetres long, and the average age is less than three years.
  • In 1949, the bluefin tuna fishery in northern Europe peaked with an annual catch of 5,485 tonnes. Today, the commercial fishery for bluefin tuna in northern Europe is closed because the fish are gone.
  • In the 1640s, the Dutch herring fleet had 700 to 800 vessels manned by a total crew of 11,000 to 12,000, with an annual catch of about 50,000 tonnes. Today, one trawler with a crew of 10 to 11 can catch the same amount of herring.

“We are really encouraged by the high level of interest in the second annual European Fish Week and the concern European citizens are expressing about the current state of our seas and the need to revitalise them. The European Commission will soon publish its proposal for a reformed Common Fisheries Policy. OCEAN2012 member groups are calling on EU fisheries ministers to deliver a policy that prioritises the marine environment, ensuring healthy fish stocks and safeguarding fisheries-dependent communities,” Bellion said.