Report | May 29, 2017

North Western Waters. Status and Potential Productivity of Fish Stocks

The European Union is failing to responsibly manage its fish resources. Despite several international commitments and EU framework regulations on sustainable fisheries, the status of fish stocks is still far from being considered as healthy. Overfishing in the EU continues to affect a large proportion of fish stocks.

In the North Western Waters (NWW) the situation is equally worrying. Only a small number of fish stocks – 10 stocks out of 47- (21%) are considered in line with the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) commitments. This means having a biomass above healthy levels (B>Bmsy) and fishing mortality not subject to overfishing (F<Fmsy).

Regrettably, this condition poses a clear threat to the status of the fish stocks and leads to the under-exploitation of these resources. By contrast, in a well-managed, long-term sustainable scenario, fisheries in the North Western Waters could increase catches by 87%.

The status of North Western Waters’ fish stocks and fi sheries can be summarised as follows:

• 77% of fish stocks have an unhealthy level of biomass.

• 49% of fish stocks are overfished.

• Only 21% of fish stocks are in line with the CFP’s sustainable fishing objectives.

• If fish stocks were well managed, catches could increase by 87%, or 200,000 tonnes.

EU Member States must act without delay to recover fish stocks and exploit them in a sustainable way. To do that, they should abandon short-sighted socio-economic arguments and adopt management measures in line with scientific advice. The positive benefi ts of exploiting fish resources in a sustainable way are clear, not only for the status of fish stocks but also for the European fleet operating in this area.