Oceana denounces the fact that the European Union has ignored almost 80% of scientific advice on fish quotas over the last 20 years

The quotas allocated by the governments were over 35 million tons higher than the values advised by scientists.

Press Release Date: August 26, 2013

Location: Madrid


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

Species in danger of extinction, such as hake, anchovy or cod are among the worst managed.

While negotiations on TACs and quotas will start next Monday, Oceana reminds EU fisheries Ministers that the last advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) about fishing opportunities for 2008 is alarming. Only 13 stocks are currently exploited in a sustainable manner while 28 stocks are outside safe biological limits and the recommendation for 18 others is 0 catch for 2008. In the mean time no reliable advice can be presented for 56 stocks because of incomplete scientific evaluation mainly due to poor availability of the data. This means that ¾ of the stocks with enough scientific coverage are at least outside safe biological limits and that scientific advice should be reinforced. In the mean time, Oceana fears that scientific advice will again be ignored by the Council this year, a scenario that happens for decades.

Over the last 20 years, ICES, which draws together over 1,600 scientists, has given over 1,500 pieces of scientific advice to EU and other governments in the north- eastern Atlantic for the correct management of fish stocks. Of these, only 350 (22%) have been properly respected, whilst over 1,200 have been totally ignored. This is the result of an analysis carried out by Oceana on quota and catching data from European fleets over the last two decades.

Horse mackerel, salmon, hake, anchovy, whiting and anglerfish are the species for which scientific criteria for their exploitation have been followed least (less than 15% of scientific advice implemented).

Allocated TACs exceeded ICES’ advice for almost all species, significantly forblue whiting and horse mackerel (advice ignored in almost 80% of the cases) as for capelin, anchovy, hake and cod (between 20 and 35%).

This poor management of fisheries has led to widespread over-exploitation of the Atlantic’s fishing resources. Evidence that the fishing quotas assigned to each fleet were excessive is the fact that not even the fishermen were able to catch the volume of tons allocated, but the over-fishing caused decline of many fish stocks. Specifically, the fishing fleets of the EU and other European countries have fished over 13 million tons less than expected, compared to what they were granted by their governments, but they have exceeded what was advised by scientists by over 22 million tons.

In the case of the anchovy, over 95% of scientific proposals were ignored, and furthermore, they were granted quotas which exceeded those advised by 35%; for cod, quotas 25% higher than those suggested by ICES were permitted and 85% of the advice given was ignored, or for hake, where quotas were 30% higher than suggested and 95% of advice was ignored.

These figures do not include the at least 30 million tons of fish discarded by European fleets during this period. Besides, other important amounts taken from biological stocks are also ignored in Council discussions and not taken into account in stocks management: illegal, unregulated and unreported fisheries, ghost fishing, kidnapping of juveniles to get fatter in fish farms. These make fishing over-exploitation reach exorbitant levels.

Despite the fact that several hundreds of marine species are commercialized in the European Union, less than 40 are managed, scientifically evaluated and limited by quotas; the rest have no these kind of regulation and limits.

Imagine that you have to plan your family budget for next year. Your banker advises you to restrict it on 700 euros but you decide you can share 1000 euros. You allocate 100 euros pocket money to each of your 10 children but then some of them will spend more than that, some will steal from you, others will throw money out of the window and by the way your wallet has a hole. What would be your financial situation next year? What is sad is that we do not speak about money only, but also about irresponsible use of the ecosystem commented Gilles Doignon, Campaigner for Oceana Europe.

For these reasons, Oceana urges EU fisheries Ministers to decide 2008 TACs and quotas considering what is really taken from biological stocks (i. e., real catches) and to support a long term vision of European fisheries sector by trusting scientific advice. Moreover Oceana highly recommends Member States of ICES to allocate more fundings to this organization to hire and train more experts in order to collect more data and develop more integrated advice on every targeted species.

If the EU is not following the scientific advice for the few species analyzed and regulated through quotas, we can imagine what is happening with the other than do not count with these tools. In the face of this scenario, no one should be surprised that Europe’s fishing stocks are in such a disastrous situation. The irresponsible manner in which the EU’s resources have been managed is unacceptable, concluded Ricardo Aguilar, Research Director for Oceana Europe.