Oceana urges EU ministers to speed up recovery of Atlantic fisheries

Decision-makers can rebuild stocks and create more jobs in the fishing industry by setting sustainable Total Allowable Catches on the 12th of December

Press Release Date: December 7, 2017

Location: Brussels


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

Oceana urges EU fisheries ministers to set sustainable fishing limits for the North-East Atlantic and the North Sea for the coming year, as the most straightforward way to rebuild fish stocks, restore the balance in the ecosystem and increase revenues as well as the number of jobs.

The decision will be made in the AGRIFISH Council on the 11-12 December, and covers the largest share of EU fish catches. An Oceana study estimates that the EU could catch 58% more fish in 10 years, create 92,000 new jobs and generate 4.9 billion euros annually if stocks were recovered and fished at their Maximum Sustainable Yield.

“Catches in the North-East Atlantic are higher than sustainable levels, which means that stocks have diminished and are not yielding their full potential. Moreover, this business model will be illegal in just two years’ time, as 2020 is the legal deadline for all fishing activities to be sustainable in the EU”, said Lasse Gustavsson, executive director of Oceana in Europe. “Fishing sustainably makes both ecological and economic sense: More fish is more money and more jobs. European fisheries have a bright future ahead, if we manage to restore fish stocks, and the ball is now in the ministers’ courtyard. They hold the power to reverse the trend”.

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) mandates that catch limits must be sustainable by 2015, or latest by 2020 if there are   socio-economic reasons for the opposite. In line with this, NGOs issued a briefing calling on ministers to provide clear justifications and sound scientific and/or socio-economic evidence in cases where Total Allowable Catches (TACs) are set above levels advised by the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas; the organization whose advice is used every year as basis for the European Commission’s proposal.

In 2017, the TACs of some of the key commercial fish stocks were set above scientific advice. TACs that fail to follow scientific advice delay the rebuilding of fish stocks, meaning that revenues  remain smaller than they could be due to stocks being smaller than their potential. According to the latest European Commission report on the performance of the CFP, overfishing still affects up to 41% of Atlantic fish stocks.

The status of fish stocks is however still healthier in the Atlantic than in other European seas, but the steps required to recover them are very slow due to weak political decisions. According to reports published by Oceana, the transition to a fisheries management model based on sustainable TACs should only take up to ten years, depending on each stock. Two thirds of EU fish stocks are currently overfished, and the countries that would benefit the most by a recovery would be Spain, Denmark, France and Poland. 

Learn more: Joint NGO recommendations on fishing opportunities for 2018

Healthy fisheries are good for business