Fisheries organisation Europêche has said new data released from the European Commission shows there has been a major improvement in most commercial fish stocks in the Northeast Atlantic over the last decade.
The new data shows 36 stocks are now fished at Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) levels - a key indicator of the sustainability of a particular fishery. This is compared to 27 fisheries at MSY in 2014 and just two in 2003.
According to the Commission publication, the proportion of fish removed from the stock due to fishing activities is decreasing, while the proportion of fish stocks which are being caught at sustainable levels is increasing.
Many of Europe’s most popular commercial fish species including Herring, Common Sole, Cod and Horse Mackerel are now caught at sustainable levels in several areas.
Fishermen have employed numerous measures to achieve greater sustainability in the sector over the last 10 years in particular. This includes widespread cooperation between fishermen and scientists in an effort to both track stock trends and enhance fishing practices.
In addition, fishermen have committed to using more selective fishing methods and equipment, including introducing nets with a larger mesh size, allowing juveniles to escape, and sophisticated tracking technology to ensure only the desired fish are caught.
Javier Garat, President of Europêche said: “These figures are testament to the hard work of fishermen across Europe who have shown real determination to fish in a more responsible and sustainable manner.
"To consistently improve the number of fisheries at Maximum Sustainable Yield is an enormous success.
”Whilst environmental sustainability is a key priority for us, it doesn’t necessarily have to come at the detriment of the two other sustainability pillars - the continuing economic and social wellbeing of the industry.“
Barrie Deas, of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) in the UK said: “This latest data shows exactly how these three key aims of sustainability can be achieved hand-in-hand and the fact that the efforts of our fishermen have had such a positive effect in a relatively short space of time proves how their commitment is paying off.”
With the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy in 2014, these figures are expected to increase further, in particular with the entry into force of the new landing obligations and multiannual management plans.