EU admits slowdown in sustainable fishing

Half of the Atlantic and almost all of the Mediterranean fish stocks are overfished. Fish stocks will not meet binding EU sustainable goals by 2020

Press Release Date: June 15, 2016



Marta Madina | email: | tel.: Marta Madina

Today, the European Commission has released its figures on the status of fish stocks in the European Union (EU). Following the Commission’s annual report on fishing opportunities, Oceana calls on the EU and its Member States to immediately redouble EU-wide efforts to curb this year’s slowdown in the number of fish stocks that are caught at sustainable levels.

In an upward and worrying trend, half of fish stocks in North-East Atlantic have been assessed as over-fished and more alarmingly, almost all Mediterranean fish stocks are now over-fished. Key commercial and consumer fish like cod in the Baltic Sea and North Sea, herring in the north-western waters, Norway lobster in south-western waters and hake in the Mediterrranean Sea, are currently well below precautionary levels recommended by marine scientists and therefore threatening the long-term viability of these fisheries.

The slowdown identified by  the Commission is another blow to reaching the legally-binding fish stock levels set out in the European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) by 2020. Within the EU waters, only a few dozen fish populations are fished at maximum sustainable yield (MSY) levels, in other words, at levels that allow depleted fish stocks to recover and to ensure consumers that fish they buy has not been over-fished.

“Less than four years are left to rebuild EU stocks and European Member States are lost at sea as to how to address endless overfishing and dwindling fish stocks in EU waters”, said Lasse Gustavsson, executive director of Oceana in Europe. “Oceana therefore calls on the EU to make their annual fishing quotas based strictly and solely on scientific advice and not through bargaining by individual Member States if we are to have any chance of reaching the EU’s MSY fishing targets by 2020”, added Gustavsson.

Oceana therefore urges the European Commission and Council of the European Union to redouble its efforts to recover fish stocks and wipe out overfishing by 2020. With only 4 years left, the next step now is to adopt fishing quotas for the North East Atlantic in 2017 that follow scientific advice and that are in line with the CFP objectives. In the Mediterranean Sea, Oceana stresses additional emergency measures should be put in place immediately to address the decades-long practice of over-fishing that has led to dwindling stocks and a high biological collapse in key commercial fish.