Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
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On the state of fish stocks

On the state of fish stocks

If the overriding objective of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy is the achievement of fishing at the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) by 2015, the situation in northern waters is already on track, and an evolving success story. The Mediterranean is a different story, as discussed in this year’s seminar on the State of Fish Stocks in European Waters.

Since 2002, fishing mortality and fishing effort in the North-East Atlantic have decreased, Spawning Stock Biomass (SSB) has been increasing, and a large number of stocks are consistent with MSY. Currently, 61% of assessed stocks are fished consistently with MSY, up from only 2% in 2005, 12% in 2008 and 53% in 2012. The European Union’s approach to fisheries management, built on a scientific foundation with core principles of transparency, cooperation and good governance, has clearly paid off.

Furthermore, economic analysis shows improved profit in the North-East Atlantic despite higher fuel costs and lower catches, showing that higher-quality fish fetch higher prices.

 

The European Union’s approach to fisheries management, built on a scientific foundation with core principles of transparency, cooperation and good governance, has clearly paid off.

 

European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, noted that “Hard choices have been made in the northern seas, but stocks have improved and the industry has grown more profitable as a result. This is a vindication of the hard work put in by scientists and the fishing industry to protect and recover stocks.”

In contrast with the progress in the North-East Atlantic, North Sea and Baltic Sea, the situation in the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea is worsening. In the Mediterranean, as much as 95% of fish stocks are being overexploited.

 

On the state of fish stocks - © iStockphoto.com / Mimadeo
On the state of fish stocks - © iStockphoto.com / Mimadeo
 

“Hard choices have been made in the northern seas, but stocks have improved and the industry has grown more profitable as a result.”

 

Admittedly, the Mediterranean is a more complex story, due to fishing vessels from North-African and Eastern Mediterranean countries also exploiting the stocks, meaning management measures have to be agreed for all.

However, even when the political and territorial complexities are factored in, progress in the Mediterranean is still far too slow. The EU believes that Member States and the Regional Advisory Council for the Mediterranean need to be more proactive and apply a more localised approach to overfishing. Effective action is needed, and there is no time to spare.

 

Scientists recommend that a number of measures be taken immediately.

 

Scientists recommend that a number of measures be taken immediately: curbing fishing effort and catches to reduce fish mortality for all demersal fisheries; implementing a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) system for small pelagics; and modifying gear selectivity. 

The Commission will continue to provide leadership incentives to get the Mediterranean fisheries on track to sustainability, but deeply regrets delays in the sustainable management of areas such as the Gulf of Lion, the Ligurian and Balearic Seas, and most of the Ionian and Tyrrhenian Basins.

The EU bases the management of fisheries on sound science. Data and findings gathered through scientific research are made publicly available so that the processes and decisions are fully transparent. The EU also facilitates the participation of the fishing sector and other stakeholders by presenting and discussing management plans and data in open forums, such as the Commission’s annual seminar on the State of Fish Stocks in European Waters, where all interested parties and citizens are free to attend and contribute to discussions.

This year’s seminar was held in Brussels on 17 September, and was attended by fishing industry representatives, environmental organisations, citizens and journalists. Scientists from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea and the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries presented the latest biological and economic information on the state of fish stocks in European waters, as well as the economic state of European fishing fleets.

Past Issues
June  2017 - Issue 75
March  2017 - Issue 74
November 2016 - Issue 73
August 2016 - Issue 72