Study shows fisheries council irresponsilility led to collapse of North Sea cod

As CFP reform heats up, Oceana urges Council to favor responsibility over short term political gain and put the future of Europe’s fish stocks first.

Press Release Date: April 26, 2012

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: | tel.: Marta Madina

On the eve of the Fisheries Council discussions in Luxembourg, Oceana draws attention to a new paper [1] co-authored by fisheries scientist Dr. Rainer Froese and resource economist Martin Quaas, linking the Council’s poor decisions and disregard for scientific advice to the collapse of North Sea cod. The international marine conservation organization is urging Council members to put aside their talking points and make the strong decisions necessary to safeguard the future of Europe’s fish stocks and industry.

“For years, the Council has consistently disregarded science, and this study shows one of the many consequences of their careless inaction,” stated Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana Europe. “The Council had all the information they needed to prevent the collapse of cod in the North Sea – but they willfully chose to ignore it, and now the fishing industry is paying the price. European citizens have entrusted them with the responsible management of this public good and it is high time our Ministers repair that broken trust.”

The study supports assertions that when appropriate, fishery closures lead to long term profit for the industry. In the case of the North Sea cod for example, the German scientists conclude that profits from the rebuilt stocks after a three year closure, as recommended by scientists, would have been several times higher than what they are today, easily surpassing the losses caused by the cessation of activities.

“We used actual recruitment of young fish, reported discards of cod, and actual price data in our study. We only assumed lower catches than legislated by the Council,” added Dr. Froese. “In other words, there can be no doubt about the recovery of the North Sea cod, if the Council had acted responsibly.”

Over the past five years, fisheries ministers have set total allowable catches (TACs) 40% above scientific advice. At a time when the CFP is undergoing arguably its most important reform, this new study again highlights one of the major shortcomings of Europe’s fisheries policy: that the principles and objectives contained therein matter little without the willingness of politicians to enact them responsibly.

Despite binding international targets, including reaching MSY for all commercial stocks by 2015, and a requirement to reach Good Environmental Status in all European waters by 2020, many member states continue to refuse to make the tough calls required to meet them, often citing the economic impact of closures and quota cuts on the industry.

[1] Froese R., Quaas M. 2012. Mismanagement of the North Sea cod by the Council of the European Union. Ocean & Coastal Management  doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2012.03.017