Oceana: European Commission falls short with deep-sea fisheries proposal

Commission has failed to propose drastic reductions that were recommended for three key stocks, and has neglected to consider ecosystem impacts.

Press Release Date: October 3, 2014

Location: Madrid


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

Today, the European Commission published its biennial proposal on fishing opportunities for deep-sea species, for 2015 and 2016. While for most stocks the Commission has proposed total allowable catches (TACs) that follow scientific advice, it has failed to propose drastic reductions that were recommended by scientists for three key stocks, and has neglected to consider ecosystem impacts. According to Oceana, ignoring these aspects clearly runs counter to the precautionary approach, especially given the high vulnerability of deep-sea species to overfishing.

“Deep-sea species and ecosystems are recognised to be very unsuitable for sustaining heavy fishing pressure, because their recovery capacity is extremely limited,” declared Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe. “For these stocks, scientific advice must be always strictly adhered to, because the risks associated with doing otherwise are simply too great.” 

The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), the scientific organisation that advises the EU on marine issues, had called for significant reductions and even fisheries closures for several stocks of roundnose grenadier and red seabream. In all of these cases, the Commission has only proposed to reduce catches by 20% per year. For species such as black scabbardfish, alfonsinos, orange roughy and greater forkbeard, proposed catch limits are in line with scientific advice. In the case of deep-sea sharks, for which fisheries are currently prohibited due to concerns about significant the Commission has not yet made a proposal because scientific advice is still pending.

In addition to following scientific advice on catch levels, Oceana further recommends that fishing opportunities should also take into account associated impacts on non-target species and habitats. For example, Oceana opposes the proposed 10% increase in catches of greater forkbeard, because these fisheries are carried out using bottom trawls that capture large quantities of non-target species and damage deep-sea coral communities.

“Advice from stock assessments is based only on what might be sustainable for target species, but does not consider whether levels of fishing pressure are also sustainable for the many species of by-catch, and more broadly, deep-sea ecosystems,” stated Javier Lopez, Marine Scientist with Oceana in Europe. “We urge the Fisheries Council to act in line with the sustainability objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy, when they decide on these important issues at their meeting in November.”