Political dispute neglects shared ecosystem
The fourth and supposedly final round of fisheries negotiations between the EU and UK has ended today, without agreement. Oceana regrets the unwillingness of both parties to agree a set of rules for managing fishing fleets and conserving fish populations. Without cooperation, the marine ecosystem shared by both entities will bear the brunt of a likely increase in overfishing. The UK and the EU should keep current environmental standards, prioritise science-based management, and legally commit to fishing at or below maximum sustainable yield limits, in any future agreement.
“In the last decade, a collaborative effort based on common objectives has resulted in the overfishing rate in the North-East Atlantic dropping by about half, from 75% to 40%. This progress must continue if overfishing is to become a thing of the past” said Vera Coelho, Senior Director of Advocacy at Oceana in Europe.”A no-deal scenario for fisheries, in which the EU and the UK would unilaterally set management measures, including catch limits for more than 100 shared fish populations, can only put the progress achieved at great risk. 1 July is the deadline for the UK and the EU to reach a fisheries agreement and we urge them to make a last effort to find a compromise that benefits all parties, including the marine environment.”
With the future of a potential deal increasingly uncertain and the risk of a no-deal ever higher, the political arguments are ignoring the marine ecosystem - which will be the collateral victim of increased overfishing, a likely outcome in the event of no agreement. Science should underpin any agreement to ensure long-term sustainability for shared fish populations as well as for the fishing sector over short-term profits.
No collaboration or a no deal will result in highly competitive rivalry, destructive for all sides. This was the case with mackerel, a widely distributed fish stock in the North Atlantic, for which lack of agreement among the EU, Norway, Faroe Islands and Iceland led to unilaterally increased quota and put the sustainable exploitation of the stock at risk.
The goal of the agreement should be to achieve fully sustainable fisheries governed by the best scientific advice, rather than politics. Shared stocks need to be managed according to a joint methodology and the advice of an independent, international and widely acknowledged scientific body, such as the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES).