Annual Report Shows a Disappointing Amount of Overfished EU Fish Stocks

16 June 2016, at 1:00am

EU - Less than 10 per cent of the assessed EU fish stocks are fished at sustainable levels. This is the worrying news coming out of the European Commission's annual report on the state of EU fish stocks.

The report sets out the principles for healthy and profitable fisheries in the EU which will assist decisions on setting fishing quotas for 2017.

The report found that in the Mediterranean and Black sea almost 92 per cent of the assessed stocks are overfished. In order to address this situation, Member States have presented a number of action plans to the Commission.

In the Atlantic, North Sea and Baltic Sea, just more than half of fisheries, for which data advice is available, were operating at sustainable levels in 2014.

But, according to a press release from the European Commission, overall, fisheries in Europe are showing good progress towards the sustainability target set out in the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

The report also examined the implementation of the landing obligation, one year after its introduction in 2015 and found that reporting by Member States showed no major problems, but a number of challenges remain which will require concerted efforts by both industry and administrations.

An economic analysis of the EU fisheries sector revealed that the EU fleet achieved relatively high profits in 2014. The fleet increased its economic performance significantly compared to 2008, when it was making losses.

Karmenu Vella, EU Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fish­eries, said: “The performance of EU fleets confirms that the sustainable exploitation of fisheries in all EU waters addresses not only environmental, but also social and economic concerns. To maintain this positive trend, equal commitment is required by Member States. I also intend to continue to roll out multiannual plans, including in the Mediterranean that combine sustainability with stability in fisheries, while moving towards more regionalised decision making."

Following the release of the report, Oceana is calling on the EU and its Member States to immediately redouble efforts to curb this year’s slowdown in the number of fish stocks that are caught at sustainable levels.

“Less than four years are left to rebuild EU stocks and European Member States are lost at sea as to how to address endless overfishing and dwindling fish stocks in EU waters,” said Lasse Gustavsson, executive director of Oceana in Europe.

“Oceana therefore calls on the EU to make their annual fishing quotas based strictly and solely on scientific advice and not through bargaining by individual Member States if we are to have any chance of reaching the EU’s MSY fishing targets by 2020,” added Gustavsson.

ClientEarth fisheries scientist Liane Veitch said: "It is disappointing in the extreme that the Commission used out of date information in their report. The latest data shows overfishing has actually increased more than the Commission let on. The Commission is required to report on the state of EU fisheries and progress to achieve sustainable fishing, and this should be done with transparency and integrity. The data actually shows that we need more ambition from ministers to safeguard the future of EU fishing. A continuation of short-termist thinking will result in sharp shocks for fishermen and consumers as we approach the absolute deadline in 2020 to end overfishing."