EU Needs Science-based Fishing Limits for All Deep-Sea Stocks

The European Commission on Oct. 3 published its proposal for fishing limits, known as Total Allowable Catches (TACs), for deep-sea fish stocks caught in 2015-2016 by European Union vessels.

Deep-sea fish species such as orange roughy, roundnose grenadier, blue ling, mirror dory and silver dory, are particularly vulnerable to overfishing because they generally live longer, grow slower, mature later, and spawn fewer young than many other fish species. In addition, a number of deep-sea fish stocks in the north-eastern Atlantic Ocean have already been significantly depleted.

For most stocks, the Commission has proposed limits in line with scientific advice and the reformed Common Fisheries Policy. For others, however, notably red seabream and groundnose grenadier, it has proposed fishing limits that, if agreed to by EU fisheries ministers, will not do enough to conserve these stocks.

“Pew urges EU fisheries ministers to set fishing limits for deep-sea stocks that will end overfishing in 2015. They should only allow delays to this deadline if there is evidence that such steps to end overfishing of a specific species would seriously jeopardise the social and economic sustainability of the fishing fleets involved,” said Uta Bellion, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ European marine programme.

In November, the Council of Fisheries Ministers, made up of the 28 EU member state ministers responsible for fisheries, will consider the proposed TACs. In their deliberations, ministers may agree to changes to the proposed limits for any stock.

Since January 2014, fisheries ministers also have been considering a European Commission proposal dealing with north-east Atlantic waters that would require strict catch limits on deep-sea species, environmental impact assessments, and a phasing out of the most destructive fishing practices, such as bottom trawling.

“EU fisheries ministers should adopt, without delay, regulations that protect some of the most vulnerable marine species and ecosystems,” Bellion said.  “We call on Italy, which holds the rotational EU Presidency, to take leadership on these issues.”

Earlier this year, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States concluded that bottom trawling represents a major threat to the world’s deep seafloor ecosystems. The fishing method, the study said, “is deemed to transform large portions of the deep continental slope into faunal deserts and highly degraded seascapes.”

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