EU ditches long-term conservation of deep-sea marine life

Agreement by fisheries ministers on deep-sea fishing puts vulnerable species at risk and defies sustainable fishing required by 2020 under EU law

Press Release Date: November 20, 2018

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: | tel.: Marta Madina

After negotiations late into Monday evening, agriculture and fisheries ministers came to a disappointing deal on “fishing opportunities” in the European Atlantic waters for the next two years. The agreement affects deep-sea fish and sharks, and goes against recommended conservation measures for this vulnerable marine life and sustainable fishing in the Atlantic, Oceana warns.

The decision on catch limits also undermines EU law under the Common Fisheries Policy, which aims to ensure that all fishing in the EU is done sustainably by 2020 to help overfished stocks recover and safeguard supplies of fish such as red seabream, black scabbardfish and sharks from EU waters. 

The European Commission and the Council have lowered the bar for deep-sea marine life, which essentially creates a double standard under the EU’s own Common Fisheries Policy. But the law is clear: the EU must stop overfishing and all fish must be caught at sustainable levels by 2020, including the most vulnerable ones,” said Lasse Gustavsson, Executive Director of Oceana Europe.

Fisheries ministers have chosen to see nothing, hear nothing and say nothing for the deep sea. These ministers are responsible for the conservation of our oceans in Europe and their careless approach is simply unacceptable,added Gustavsson.

Yet the biennial deal reached by ministers in Brussels on Monday sets catch limits above recommendations by scientists for more than half of fish stocks in 2019 and 2020. Additionally, up until last year, ministers decided on 20 TACs for deep-sea fish but after today’s agreement 6 out these 20 will remain totally unmanaged and under no conservation whatsoever. This will have an impact on stocks of black scabbardfish, roundnose grenadier and greater forkbeard.


Notes to the editor:

Many deep-sea creatures are classed as vulnerable species and could be wiped out altogether without long-term conservation measures and precautionary approach to fisheries management. Deep-sea fish species live in extreme conditions and are slow-growing, late-maturing and long-living. They reproduce at a later stage in life, making these fish stocks prone to collapse.

Environmental NGOs urged the European Commission and the Council of the EU to:

  • Set catch limits not exceeding the best available scientific advice
  • Take into account the potential impact of fishing on non-target species and marine ecosystems, with special focus on the vulnerable ones
  • Fix TACs at zero for the most vulnerable deep-sea species, such as orange roughy and deep-sea sharks, in line with scientific advice
  • Improve data on deep-sea stocks and ensure at-sea catch monitoring is put in place for fisheries with a high risk of bycatches of vulnerable species
  • Improve the transparency of decisions, for instance by publishing the methodology used to calculate TACs on the basis of scientific advice, and make all proposals and related documents immediately public.


Environmental NGO Recommendations on Deep-Sea Fishing Limits 2019-2020

European Red List of Marine Fishes