Scientific catch limits crucial to the future of european fish stocks

European Commission review reveals alarming numbers: 91% of Mediterranean and 41% of North East Atlantic fish stocks are overexploited.

Press Release Date: June 26, 2014

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: | tel.: Marta Madina

Oceana urges decision makers to heed scientific advice when setting 2015 catch limits and management measures.

Today, the European Commission announced their initial plans for next year’s fishing quotas – Total Allowable Catches (TACs) – in the EU. The exact catch limits will not be decided until this autumn, but today’s review revealed an alarming reality: 41% of North East Atlantic stocks and 91% of Mediterranean stocks are overfished. Oceana welcomes the fact that the Commission is ready to progress on multiannual management plans, and propose additional measures to rebuild fish stocks in accordance with the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY).

“Let’s hope that these good intentions prove to be more than just words. The alarming state of European fish stocks requires that decision makers finally close the gap between scientific advice and adopted management measures. The clock is ticking for European fisheries – any irresponsible, short-term decisions will backfire and undermine the newly-reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP)”, stated Xavier Pastor, executive director of Oceana in Europe.

In the new CFP, EU Member States and the Parliament agreed to rebuild fish stocks, phase out discards and strengthen environmental protection. The decision on the 2015 fishing opportunities will therefore be a clear indication on how willing Member States are to apply the principles they have agreed on in practice. Oceana urges them to set 2015 catch limits according to MSY, and to follow the precautionary approach in the spirit of the new CFP.

Fishing areas of particular concern:

  • Mediterranean Sea: Overfishing is prevalent with 91% of stocks overexploited, including European hake, red mullet, and deep-water rose shrimp, along with sardines and anchovies.
  • North-East Atlantic:  41% of fish stocks are classified as overexploited. The situation is difficult for key commercial species, particularly cod   and western horse mackerel.
  • The Baltic Sea: Scientists recently recommended the largest cut in Baltic cod catches in years. The western cod stock is not fished sustainably, and the eastern cod stock is in a dire state, consisting mainly of small and skinny individuals.