Oceana declares thet the last decisions by EU fisheries ministers had led to 88% of fishery resources being overexploited

The depletion of fish in Europe and the increase in demand means that more than 4 million tonnes of fish must be imported each year.

Press Release Date: December 18, 2013

Location: Madrid


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At least 3 out of every 4 cods eaten in the EU do not come from the catches of EU fleets, but instead are imported. This happens for other species as well. For every hake that comes from European waters, 6 more are imported for consumption.

Tomorrow the European Union Council of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers meet to debate the Commission’s proposal on fishing opportunities (TACs and quotas) for the EU fleet in 2009. 

This process is fundamental to ensuring the sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources, but for years Oceana, the international marine conservation organisation, reiterated that it has always occurred outside of the recommendations made every year for the EU by the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES). This is one of the main reasons that 88% of European fish stocks are now overexploited[1].

“While the Commission’s proposal this year is better adapted to scientific recommendations for certain stocks, the quotas that the ministers end up authorizing might be once again excessive. If the dynamic we’ve seen in the past few years repeats itself in this year’s Fisheries council, bad fisheries management will carry on, and the industry’s short-term economic interests will prevail”, declared María José Cornax, marine scientist with Oceana.

Economically, one of the consequences of this overexploitation is a shortage in fish supply to community markets. To satisfy the increasing demand for fisheries products, community fleets look for catches in foreign fishing grounds, and the EU has become the largest fish importer in the world, with 4,111,472 tonnes in 2007[2].This means that the quality of imports equals 77% of the European fleets’ total catches. Hake or cod are among the main species in this market, as are various fresh water species such as tilapia, Pangasius and perch, coming from Africa and Asia.

The massive inflow of species caught all around the world sometimes directly competes with the European fleets’ catches from the Northeast Atlantic. This results in a reduction in price of the European product and worsens the fisheries sector’s already low profitability caused by depleted fishing grounds and the price of fuel.

According to Ricardo Aguilar, Director of Research and Projects for Oceana in Europe: “It’s a vicious cycle that makes no sense at all. In order to increase profitability for the sector, despite the fact that there are barely any fish left, irresponsible fishing quotas are granted that only make the situation worse for already overexploited stocks. The depletion of fishing grounds is not always noticed, since the market’s hunger is fed by importations. The Fisheries council has an opportunity in its hands to break this cycle by starting with the most basic things: respecting scientific recommendations and agreeing TACs and quotas that guarantee the sustainable exploitation of the stocks”.

[1] http://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/press_corner/press_releases/2008/com08_41_en.htm