Council of the EU endorses overfishing in 2020

Press Release Date: December 17, 2019

Location: Brussels


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The Agriculture and Fisheries Council of the EU (“Agrifish”) has decided on fishing limits in the Northeast Atlantic for 2020, and for the first time on fishing effort in the Western Mediterranean. Oceana finds these decisions insufficient and condemns the fact that overfishing will continue in 2020, in contravention of EU law.

Atlantic waters and the North Sea: small progress but overfishing continues

Acting on the proposal from the Commission, EU fisheries ministers agreed to increase the number of stocks managed under sustainable catch limits from 59 to 62. Oceana regrets the slight progress achieved and recalls that the EU has a legal obligation to manage all its fish stocks sustainably by 2020.

“In these times of environmental emergency, governments simply cannot continue their business as usual. There are no more excuses to perpetuate unsustainable exploitation of our natural resources”, said Pascale Moehrle, Executive Director for Oceana in Europe. “Overfishing in 2020 is illegal. Unfortunately, all the good intentions and binding commitments were not enough, as fisheries ministers opted to disregard the EU law. Their mission has not been accomplished.”

Oceana calls upon the European Parliament to execute their right to monitor progress in implementing the Common Fisheries Policy, to scrutinize the decisions taken at Agrifish Council and to take adequate political and legal steps in order to urgently stop overfishing. The European Parliament should ensure the EU’s credibility and democratic accountability, especially in light of recent Ombudsman’s recommendations on insufficient transparency in the Council of the EU.

The Mediterranean Sea: overfishing crisis will prevail in 2020

For the first time, ministers also defined fishing effort (days at sea) for trawlers operating in the Western Mediterranean (Spain, France and Italy). The adopted 10% reduction in the number of fishing days for 2020 is insufficient to bring in any visible benefits to severely overexploited populations, mainly due to the excessive fishing pressure and the widespread fraud in engine power unveiled by a recent EU audit.

“The fishing pressure on Mediterranean stocks is on average twice the sustainable levels, and the actual engine power of the trawling fleet is estimated to be two or three times above the declared capacity. Yet  ministers agreed to only reduce fishing effort by 10%. We urge Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevi?ius to start infringement procedures against Mediterranean countries as a pre-requisite to any fishing effort restrictions, otherwise the effectiveness of any adopted measure will be at risk”, added Pascale Moehrle.

Learn more:

Joint NGO recommendations on the setting of Northeast Atlantic fishing opportunities for 2020

Oceana recommendations: Fishing opportunities for the Western Mediterranean Sea