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New Strategy To Rebuild European Fish And Fisheries


EU - Marine Scientists from Kiel have been warning repeatedly against over-harvesting the oceans. Three quarters of saltwater fish stocks are overfished globally, in Europe the numbers are as high as 88 percent according to the European Commission.

Biologists, economists and legal experts from Kiel now presented a strategy that rebuilds the stocks and offers better earnings for the fishing industry. The study is published in the recent issue of Fish and Fisheries, the leading fisheries journal.

For a long time, fish has been a reliable food source. The oceans are vast, and the stocks living in their waters seemed inexhaustible. But for centuries, more fish has been taken out than are naturally replenished. The result is obvious: stocks of traditional species such as plaice, herring or cod are only remnants of what they used to be.

Experts from the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences (IFM-GEOMAR) and the Kiel Cluster of Excellence “The Future Ocean” in collaboration with international experts demonstrate how Europe’s fish stocks can be rebuilt and sustained.

Their article "Generic harvest control rules for European fisheries“ is published in the leading journal Fish and Fisheries. Under the proposed management plan it is possible to achieve 60 per cent higher catches from four times larger stocks in the long term.

The Kiel proposal differs strongly from the European Commission’s current management plans which allow for example fishing at very low stock sizes and catches exceeding the maximum sustainable yield that a stock can produce. In contrast, the Kiel proposal closes fishing when a stock is in danger of collapse and implements a cap on catches which is 90 per cent of the maximum catch that a stock can produce on average.

The new fishery management suggested for Europe’s seas results from a multidisciplinary collaboration: Experts in economics, international law of the seas and marine ecology from Kiel, Rostock, Washington and Tasmania worked on a common topic.

Dr Rainer Froese, fisheries biologist at IFM-GEOMAR considers the group effort as essential for the trend-setting conclusion. “Our plan gathers the best know-how of fisheries management available from an international community.”

Prof. Martin Quaas, director of the department of economics at Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel (CAU) and head of Environmental, Resource and Ecological Economics agrees: “Ecologic and economic aims were brought together.” Prof. Alexander Proelß, head of Walther-Schücking-Institute for International Law at CAU points out: “By accepting our proposition, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea from 1982 would at last be implemented.”

The proposal reflects very well the experiences made in rebuilding Australia’s fish stocks and fisheries” says Keith Sainsbury, co-author of the study and senior fisheries advisor in Australia.

IFM-GEOMAR’s and The Future Ocean’s advance was received by politics and conservationists. “The study makes a very interesting contribution to the discussion and is worth to be dealt with by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea”, claims Holger Ortel (SPD), member of the German Bundestag.

Environmental organisations also highlight the effort: "Quadrupling the fish stocks makes it easier to rebuild our marine ecosystems”, says Dr Iris Menn, marine biologist at Greenpeace.

Since relevant players seem to agree, it’s time to put the concept into practice. The near future will show if this is possible on the European level.