Commission Meeting Leaves Key Fish Stocks Left Without Protection

23 November 2016, at 12:00am

EUROPE - The annual meeting of the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission has closed without agreement regarding management of the deep-sea fish orange roughy. The Commission also agreed on total allowable catches of 7,500 tonnes for redfish in the Irminger Sea. These decisions leave both vulnerable species subject to overfishing, despite clear scientific advice to not allow any direct fishing for them.

After a full week of negotiations, own interests of the five Contracting Parties to the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission prevailed above finding consensus on management measures for orange roughy.

The lack of decision comes at a point when orange roughy aggregations have been depleted and the amount of redfish in the Irminger Sea is so low that its recruitment (number of juveniles added through reproduction to the population of the stock) can be seriously impaired.

Björn Stockhausen, Fisheries Policy Officer at Seas At Risk said: “This week’s failure of the Contracting Parties to agree on management measures for depleted and vulnerable species such as orange roughy makes it very clear that the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission is not functioning properly, to the detriment of the marine environment. It urgently needs to improve its processes to make critical decisions and resolve disputes, as was also highlighted in a recent UN report. This is important because the persisting weak functioning drives down both shared fish stocks and the related fisheries, with high environmental and biodiversity costs.”

Orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus) is listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of European marine fish species, while the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea has recommended zero catches until 2020.

For pelagic redfish (Sebastes mentella) in the Irminger Sea the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea recommended zero catches for 2017 and 2018, and further mentioned that not all Contracting Parties are providing data in the necessary detail regarding at which depth the catches take places.

The North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission is the competent organisation responsible for recommending fisheries management measures for the international waters of the North East Atlantic to its Contracting Parties. These Contracting Parties are Denmark (in respect of the Faroe Islands and Greenland), the European Union, Iceland, Norway, and the Russian Federation.