Oceana regrets lack of agreement and weak ambition in key NEAFC´s decisions

Absence of agreement on mackerel damages not only the status of the stock, but also the reputation of the Commission.

Press Release Date: November 16, 2012

Location: Madrid


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

Today, the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC), which manages the fishery resources in the international waters of its region, finished its annual meeting today in London. Although some positive decisions were adopted, Oceana regrets the lack of consensus on key species like mackerel and blue whiting, and the adoption of inefficient management measures for deep-sea species.

While management measures according to the best available scientific advice were agreed on for species like haddock and red fish, in the case of mackerel and blue whiting, the Contracting Parties were unable to find a consensus. Next year, the fourth consecutive year of mismanagement for mackerel, will see a fishing mortality rate that is still over the precautionary limit, a situation that is driving a worrying reduction in biomass.

“Only through cooperation and consensus is it possible to properly manage the fish resources in waters beyond national jurisdiction,” stated Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana Europe. “Unfortunately what has happened with species like mackerel over the last few years damages not only the stock status but also the reputation of the Commission. Countries shouldn’t decide on their own how much mackerel to fish; catches should be fixed in line with scientific advice.”

Regrettably, no improvements were made in the case of deep-sea species, as the Commission limited its decision to proroguing the previous measures, which basically consist of fishing effort restrictions. Oceana considers this measure to be inefficient and vague, particularly given the available scientific advice on catch limits and other kinds of measures, like area closures to protect spawning aggregations. On the other hand, Oceana welcomes the prohibition of fishing for deep-sea sharks and other highly vulnerable species like blue ling, a, measure that should be also adopted for orange roughy.

“Management measures for deep-sea species should be strengthened, as most of them are highly vulnerable to overexploitation due to their biological characteristics,” added Javier Lopez, marine scientist at Oceana. “Laziness and a lack of concern in the management of these species are the only justifications for why greater efforts have not already been made to implement available scientific advice and prevent their overexploitation”.

Finally, in order to protect vulnerable coral and sponge habitats, especially against the significant adverse effects of bottom fishing, NEAFC has modified the boundaries of Rockall, the Edora Bank and the Hatton Bank closures according to new scientific evidence. Unfortunately, more efforts could have been made with regards to area extensions and periods of protection.