European Commission’s fisheries plan ignores sustainability of Atlantic ecosystems

The proposal for a multi-annual management plan concerns 16 species and fishing fleets from 8 countries

Press Release Date: March 23, 2018

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: | tel.: Marta Madina

The European Commission’s proposal for a multi-annual fisheries plan for western waters is a missed opportunity to preserve Atlantic ecosystems, according to Oceana. The plan, released today, concerns stocks for fish living at the sea bottom or close to it, targeted by fleets from eight countries. Sustainable catch limits will only be set for 16 species, thus ignoring the overall sustainability of the whole marine environment. 

“The European Commission is proposing to legalise overfishing certain species in the Atlantic in order to simplify paperwork. Nobody likes bureaucracy, but fisheries cannot be sustainable unless ecosystems are well managed. Ecosystems are not well managed when certain fish stocks are ignored”, said Lasse Gustavsson, executive director of Oceana Europe. “The Commission’s proposal is against its own regulations, as it will make it impossible to achieve the Good Environmental Status and the Maximum Sustainable Yield for all fish stocks by the 2020 deadline. Oceana calls on the Parliament and the Council of Ministers to fix this flaw”.

The text proposes to manage the target species, such as cod, megrims, anglerfish, haddock, hake, Norway lobster, plaice and sole, so that they can achieve Maximum Sustainable Yield but sets lower standards for by-catch stocks. This means that less profitable ones may be overfished, thus jeopardising their role in maintaining a balanced ecosystem. Oceana believes that an effective management plan should cover the whole marine environment, including the protection of Essential Fish Habitats.

The proposed plan concerns fleets from Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the UK. Oceana calculates that for these countries, catches could increase by 88%, or 200,000 tonnes, in North Atlantic, and by 53% or 110,000 tonnes in South Atlantic, if they were well managed. Approving a robust multi-annual management plan that caps catches at scientifically-recommended limits is vital for long-term fisheries sustainability.

On a positive note, the plan recommends setting catch limits according to up to date scientific advice and contains safeguard measures that would be activated if a stock falls below warning levels. It is also the first multi-annual plan to state that recreational fisheries should be considered when setting catch limits if they have a significant impact on the fish mortality rate of a particular stock.   

Today’s proposal is set to replace five single-species-based plans for Atlantic waters. The European Commission has already proposed plans for the Baltic, North Sea and Adriatic, and recently proposed another one for Western Mediterranean.

Oceana supports managing fisheries through multi-annual plans as they contain objectives to better manage marine resources in an integrated and long-term approach, instead of yearly species-by-species management decisions.


Learn more: Towards the recovery of European Fisheries