2014 fishing opportunities: member states must close the breach between scientific advice and adopted catch limits

Oceana urges the implementation of the Maximum Sustainable Yield approach as Fisheries Council Ministers gather to decide the fate of fish stocks in the North East Atlantic.

Press Release Date: December 16, 2013

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: mmadina@oceana.org | tel.: Marta Madina

On December 16th and 17th, the Council of European Fisheries Ministers will meet in Brussels to agree on 2014 Fishing Opportunities for the main commercial fish stocks in the North East Atlantic. In a report submitted to Member States, Oceana urged the application of the principles and objectives agreed on in the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), in particular the exploitation of fish stocks according to the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) approach. The marine conservation organization stressed the critical need to reduce the breach between scientific advice and agreed catch limits.

The status of the managed stocks of the North East Atlantic continues to be of concern. Currently, around 40% of them are classified as overexploited, and 17 are below safe biological limits, including populations of key commercial species like cod, haddock, herring and sole. To restore ecosystem health, all stocks must be recovered and maintained at levels above MSY.

“Nearly half of the stocks that Ministers will be making decisions on this week are overexploited, signaling that we are still far from being able to assert that commercially targeted European fish stocks are in a good state,” stated Xavier Pastor, executive director of Oceana in Europe. “Although the downward trend in the number of overfished stocks over the past few years is positive, greater efforts are needed to phase out overfishing. Fisheries Ministers have everything in their power to do it, all they must do, is heed the scientific advice”.

Despite the EU’s commitment to manage fish stocks at MSY, only 25, a minority of total managed stocks, are currently exploited at MSY levels. The rest, with the exception of those managed through multiannual management plans, either do not comply with the MSY framework because no fishing rate according to the MSY is available, or because they are in breach of scientific advice. Only science-based management can guarantee the responsible exploitation of fish stocks.

“There are indicators that suggest that decisions regarding catch limits worsened over the past year. For example, the discrepancy between catches recommended by scientists and approved by the Council increased from 11% in 2012 to 26% in 2013,” added Javier López, marine scientist at Oceana. “This is not the way to meet the EU’s CFP commitments. Member States have to do their best to drastically reduce the breach between sustainable catches and agreed catches”.

Report: Oceana fishing opportunities recommendations for 2014