The fishing grounds off the Iberian penninsula, the west of Ireland and the North Sea are those in the worst state

Norwegian lobster, hake and monkfish in Cantabrian and Galician waters and cod in the North Sea, the west of Ireland, the western Baltic and the eastern English Channel cannot withstand any more fishing pressure.

Press Release Date: April 6, 2011

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: | tel.: Marta Madina

For decades, politicians have been ignoring scientific advice on preventing the collapse of the North-East Atlantic fisheries.

Despite the numerous alarms raised by scientists for years, the quotas agreed by politicians at Fisheries Ministers’ Councils have repeatedly disregarded these warnings. For 2004, recommendations were to reduce anchovy catches to just 11,000 tonnes and yet 33,000 tonnes were allowed to be caught. Oceana is warning that the biomass of this species is so low that it would be advisable not to exceed 5,000 tonnes in 2005, but various political representatives have already stated that they “will not accept” this reduction.

The same situation has been experienced by other emblematic fish stocks, such as, for example:

  • Blue whiting, for which limits on catches have been requested for years, and yet between two and four times more catches than recommended are being landed.
  • Megrim, catches of which in the Iberian area have constantly been higher than what is scientifically acceptable for years, landings nowadays having dropped by more than 90%.
  • Monkfish, catches of which are four times higher than what is advisable, despite the recommendations for reductions that have been made for the last five years, which has led to a call for the closure of this fishery in the Cantabrian Sea.

Politicians have also failed when it comes to establishing recovery plans for the most greatly affected species in order to avoid the closure of fisheries with the consequent social and economic impact. A serious recovery plan for hake in the Cantabrian Sea and Galicia has still not been presented, and the agreed cod recovery plan for the North Sea has been rejected by scientists as it is highly unlikely to achieve the hoped-for results.

“Fisheries Ministers must assume their culpability for the failure of fisheries management and accept scientific advice once and for all if they want there to be any kind of future for fisheries. It is unacceptable that political representatives try to present the increases in fishing quotas they achieve as ‘victories’ to the general public, while continuing to disregard scientific advice. This is an irresponsible attitude,” says Xavier Pastor, the Director of Oceana in Europe.

“Although the EU Fisheries Ministers often try to portray the European Commission as an enemy that needs to be defeated, the fact is that the proposals made by the Commission this year include many of the recommendations made by the ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea)”, explains Ricardo Aguilar, Oceana’s Director of Research and Projects.  ICES, a scientific entity that counts on the work of more than 1,600 researchers from around twenty North Atlantic nations, is responsible for advising the EU and other European countries on the state of fish stocks and the limits that should be adopted to ensure proper fisheries management.

Tomorrow, the EU Permanent Representatives Committee (COREPER) is meeting in Brussels to discuss the fishing quotas for European fleets for the forthcoming year, which will be approved at the Council of Fisheries Ministers on 21 and 22 December. Oceana has presented the EU Fisheries Ministers with its proposals on fishing quotas, in line with those being put forward by the Commission.

According to Oceana, there are a number of fisheries that should be closed or at least included in a strict stock recovery plan:

  • The monkfish fisheries off the Iberian coasts
  • The cod fisheries of Kattegat, Skagerrak, the North Sea, the Irish Sea and the eastern English Channel
  • The hake fishery off the Iberian coasts and in the Bay of Biscay
  • The Norwegian lobster fishery in the Cantabrian/Galician area

Likewise, others should be very carefully monitored due to their likelihood of getting into similar circumstances:

  • The anchovy fisheries in the Bay of Biscay and the Bay of Cadiz
  • All cod populations except in the Arctic
  • The northern hake stock
  • Megrim off the Iberian peninsula
  • All sole stocks

And not forgetting, in third place:

  • Monkfish stocks between the North Sea, the Baltic and the west of Scotland
  • All the populations of blue whiting, given their tremendous importance to the Atlantic ecosystem
  • Mackerel stocks which, if such high catches continue, may follow the same fate as other small pelagic species
  • All flatfish populations
  • Plus no increase in fishing pressure on haddock, pollock and whiting.