That is the key message Maria Damanaki, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisiheries, passes in this year's report on the state of fish stocks and the preparation of setting next years' fish quotas.
The document is now open to the views of stakeholders via an online public consultation, before the Commission makes its proposals for the 2015 fishing opportunities during the autumn.
For the first time, the Commission could take into account scientific advice for the state of the stocks in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
- The fish stock data for the Mediterranean show a dismal picture: 96 per cent or more of the Mediterranean bottom-living fish are overfished, and for the middle-water stocks like sardine and anchovy the figure is 71 per cent or more. For the Black Sea, all bottom-living fish and 33 per cent of pelagic stocks are overfished.
- But there is good news elsewhere, as in the Northeast Atlantic area, and that includes the Baltic and North Seas, overfishing has fallen from 86 per cent (30 stocks overfished out of 35 assessed) in 2009 to 41 per cent (19 out of 46 stocks) in 2014.
"I am very worried how badly things are going in the Mediterranean Sea," European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, said.
"Now that scientists have assessed many more fish stocks over the last five years, the time of denial is over: the Mediterranean Sea is heavily overfished. I see a long struggle and hard work ahead.
“We need to build up the science, adopt regional fishing plans to bring fishing down to sustainable levels. If we do not act now, we will lose the tremendous potential of these resources for future generations. The new Common Fisheries Policy offers an opportunity that we must live up to, and I shall be discussing this with all the Fisheries Ministers in the Mediterranean Member States."
On the situation in the Northeast Atlantic area, Commissioner Damanaki said: "The successful recovery of fish stocks in the Northeast Atlantic proves to me that with the right rules in place, it is possible to bring overfishing to an end.
“When good science is available, when catches are set at the right level and when – most important of all - the fishermen join in the efforts to protect the stocks, then I am sure we will see further improvements ahead. These are the principles that the reformed Common Fisheries Policy is based on."
However, the European Commission report has come under fire from the watchdog group, the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Uta Bellion, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ European marine programme, said: “In the last two years, at the same time that they were agreeing on a Common Fisheries Policy reform to end EU overfishing, fisheries ministers have gone back to setting fishing limits significantly above scientific advice.
“This Communication is a wakeup call to all EU citizens to press decision-makers to show as much ambition in implementing the Common Fisheries Policy as they did in reforming it.”
The Trust said that to reverse the trend of EU overfishing and deliver sustainable EU fisheries, the European Commission and Council of fisheries ministers must:
- Set fishing limits in accordance with scientific advice so that fish stocks can recover above levels capable of producing the maximum sustainable yield, or MSY.
- Agree that delays in ending overfishing in 2015 can be allowed only if they are based on evidence of serious social and economic hardship to the fishing fleets involved—and with clear plans in place to end overfishing for the relevant fish stocks as soon after 2015 as possible.
- Ensure that any increase in quota for stocks subject to the discards ban on unwanted fish—the landing obligation—is subject to supporting evidence from International Council for the Exploration of the Sea and limited in scope.