Oceana: EU Fisheries Ministers must set aside short term interests in catch limit decisions

63% of Atlantic stocks are overfished, yet over the past 5 years established catch limits have been on average 40% above scientific recommendations.

Press Release Date: December 14, 2011

Location: Madrid


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

Oceana is urging EU Fisheries Council Ministers to put aside short term interests in tomorrow’s meeting to establish 2012 catch limits for the main species targeted by Europe’s Atlantic fleet. Science-based Total Allowable Catches (TACs) are indispensable to stopping the overexploitation of our seas. Yet year after year, despite their commitment to manage stocks at Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) by 2015, fisheries ministers have ignored much of the scientific advice, setting TACs over the past five years that were on average 40% higher.

“Continuing to disregard scientific advice not only jeopardizes the sustainability of the resource, but also compromises the profitability of the fishing industry and the livelihood of the communities that depend on it, stated Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana Europe. “This decision will be a clear indicator of Member State’s will to achieve a successful Common Fisheries Policy reform. Pushing sustainability to the back of the political agenda is a mistake that we cannot afford to make.”

Every year Fisheries Ministers from all Member States negotiate TACs, limits on the amount of fish that can be taken from a stock, on the basis of a Commission proposal, in order to ensure the sustainable exploitation of our common resources. Unfortunately, the consistent prioritization of short term economic interests over scientific advice has led to the current state of overexploitation in the Atlantic, where 63% of fish stocks are overfished.

More worrisome, and largely due to inaccurate and incomplete Member State catch reports, scientific advice is unavailable for about two-thirds of the stocks for which TACs are being established. Management measures for these species are therefore not based in science, and can in no way guarantee sustainability. In these cases Oceana urges the Council to implement precautionary considerations, in line with Commission’s proposal, and TAC reductions should take place until there is evidence that the exploitation is sustainable.

“After decades of management it makes no sense that there are still 19 stocks of species as common as cod, haddock, or sole, below safe biological limits and only 13 at MSY levels,” points out Javier López, marine scientist at Oceana. “The state of European fish stocks depends largely on the approved catch levels and we urge Ministers to take the necessary decisions to move towards the proper management of fisheries resources.”

Oceana recommendations to European Council decision for 2012