A report by the organisation shows that the seas off the Iberian Peninsula, the North Sea and deep-sea waters are once again topping the list of areas in the worst state.
Threatened species include sharks, rays, deep-sea fish, cod, hake, anchovy and eels.
The international organisation for the defence of the seas, Oceana, has carried out a study on the state of the main fishing stocks in the waters of the North Atlantic to evaluate their situation. Based on the latest scientific evaluations, it has reviewed around one hundred different fisheries between the Arctic Sea and the Gulf of Cadiz.
More than 50% of the fisheries analysed should be closed immediately; another 30% are in danger and their catches should be reduced, and just over 10% have enough fish to allow fishing to continue or even a slight increase in catches.
Species regarded as ‘exhausted’ include sharks, both deep-sea and pelagic, a large number of rays, eels, cod in virtually the whole of Europe (except Norway), hake and anchovy in the Cantabrian Sea, whiting in the North Sea and Norway lobster and anglerfish off Galicia and Portugal, amongst others. Those that are on the road towards collapse include Atlantic mackerel, greater Argentine smelt, plaice and sole in the English Channel and South-East Ireland and redfish in Norway, Iceland and the Faeroe Islands.
Meanwhile, there is some optimism when talking about species in a better state, headed up by blue whiting and herring in a large part of Europe (except in the English Channel and the south of Ireland), pollack in the North Sea, Scotland and the Baltic, sandeel in the Baltic and North of Scotland, and haddock in Iceland and Norway.
“For more than 15 years, the politicians of the European Union have been ignoring the majority of scientific advice on fisheries management. And now the time has come to pay for this huge mistake”, said Xavier Pastor, the director of Oceana Europe.
Last year, Oceana raised the alarm about the worrying situation of anchovy in the Cantabrian Sea and called for significant catch reductions, but both the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Elena Espinosa, and her French counterpart said that these forecasts were false and authorised a quota six times higher than that recommended by scientists.
Just a few days after the start of the anchovy season this major error was corroborated and the fishery had to be closed down. Scientists have asked for it to remain closed until at least 2006 so the stock can recover.
Next week, the European Commission is expected to publish its proposals for fishing quotas for 2006. These proposals will without doubt be amended by the Fisheries Ministers who have traditionally boasted of their prowess in obtaining quotas very much higher than those recommended by scientific organisations, such as ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea), which carries out an annual assessment of North-East Atlantic fish stocks.
”Our political leaders need to stop playing Russian roulette with the future of our fisheries resources and marine ecosystems”, claims Ricardo Aguilar, the director of research at Oceana Europe.
Oceana has announced that it will be making an analysis of the Commission’s proposals and the quotas approved by the EU Council of Fisheries Ministers, and will be publicising whether this time they have respected or ignored scientific advice so that the general public can be made aware of how its seas are being managed.