Mismanagement leads to vast fish stock overexploitation in the EU

80% of managed stocks in the Mediterranean and 47% in the Atlantic are overexploited.

Press Release Date: June 7, 2012

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: mmadina@oceana.org | tel.: Marta Madina

14 stocks of species as common as cod, sole and haddock are at levels below safe biological limits

Today, the European Commission unveiled an updated assessment of the status of fish resources and established guidelines for the allocation of next year’s fishing opportunities. Oceana wants to call attention to the regrettable state of stocks and urges decision makers to set future catches decisions based on scientific advice to recover fish stocks and bring them to levels at or above Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY).

Oceana believes that the state of fish stocks is not a coincidence but rather a consequence of the lack of political will to follow scientific recommendations and implement regulations in force. It would otherwise be incomprehensible that overfishing affects 80% and 47% of EU stocks in the Mediterranean and Atlantic respectively. Overfishing is so abundant that it affects not only the health of fish stocks but also the profitability of the fishing sector, thereby seriously jeopardizing the welfare of fishing communities.

“This year the EU fleet is going to be allowed to catch 11% more than what is recommended by scientists. The recovery of fish stocks and the sustainability of fishing activity will never be achieved if it continues this way,” stated Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana Europe. “It is hardly surprising that after decades of poor management by the EU, 14 stocks are below safe biological limits – a disgrace for Europe.”

In many cases Member States simply do not provide the sound data required for the proper management of fish stocks, especially concerning fishing mortality. Without data there can be no stock assessments or scientific recommendations and consequently, the fixed catch limits can guarantee neither sustainability nor MSY. In today´s communication, the EU Commission recognizes that due to poor data the status of half of the stocks is unknown.

Oceana however welcomes the Commission´s proposal to set fishing opportunities for next year that are consistent with the maximum sustainable yield by 2015 goal, to comply with international commitments and legal obligations contained in the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. The recommendation however only applies to 33 stocks, an insignificant number when compared to the total amount of harvested stocks.

“What is the use of drafting new regulations or signing international conventions to ensure sustainable fisheries if there is no will to implement them”, added Ricardo Aguilar, Research Director for Oceana in Europe. While there are no binding provisions in the regulations to implement scientific recommendations, it seems that politicians have no intention of ending the overexploitation of fish resources on their own.”