EU fisheries Council turns a blind eye to overfishing
A third of EU fishing quotas exceed scientists’ advice despite ecological crises
Press Release Date: December 14, 2021
Today, EU fisheries ministers have reached an agreement on 2022 fishing opportunities, which includes 23 catch limits for fish populations managed exclusively by the EU in the North-East Atlantic as well as fishing effort restrictions for Mediterranean waters. Oceana condemns the EU for not closing the gap between the scientific advice and the adopted fishing opportunities, resulting in the continuation of overfishing for a third of catch limits in 2022, in contravention of the legal commitment set in the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
“Member States have decided to disregard the scientific advice for around 35% of the catch limits agreed and for the reduction of fishing effort in the Mediterranean. Well-known fish populations like southern Atlantic hake, Cantabrian Sea and Atlantic Iberian waters sole, or western Mediterranean red mullet will be subject to overfishing for another year. This decision is not only detrimental to the marine environment but also goes against binding commitments in the CFP,“ explained Vera Coelho, Senior Director of Advocacy at Oceana in Europe. She added: “In these times of ecological crises, this shocking disregard for the science and the welfare of the greater marine ecosystem is unacceptable. Ministers, especially from France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland and Denmark, continue to turn a blind eye to overfishing as if there was no tomorrow, further aggravating the climate and biodiversity crises.”
In agreeing the fishing opportunities for 2022, EU ministers have exceeded the European Commission´s original proposals. Fisheries ministers have also given the green light and transposed into EU law the fishing opportunities agreed by the European Commission, on behalf of the EU, with other European coastal states such as Norway. The agreement on catch limits for fish populations shared with the UK is still pending. If the EU and the UK fail to reach an agreement by December 20th, each party shall set unilateral catch limits for the stocks for which no agreed catch limit exists. In anticipation of a potential non-agreement with the UK, the EU has also agreed provisional quotas for the first 3 months of next year based on quotas established in 2021 and not on scientific advice, which a priori contradicts the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and UK.
The EU has missed the legal deadline to end overfishing by 2020 set in the Common Fisheries Policy and in UN commitments. According to a European Commission report on the performance of the CFP from April this year, after a decade of progress, overfishing is now back on the rise in the North-East Atlantic, where it has risen from 38% to 43%. The situation remains dire in the Mediterranean and Black seas, where 83% of fish stocks are subject to overfishing.
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