The working paper, entitled ‘Ending Overfishing Can Mitigate Impacts of Climate Change’, by Dr Rashid Sumaila and Dr. Travis Tai of the University of British Columbia, highlights that implementation of strategies to increase resilience has been found to help with recovery from extreme climate impacts: Overfishing and climate change are not mutually exclusive problems to be addressed separately, and holistic comprehensive solutions must be found to address these two global challenges.

Recent estimates suggest that at least 40% of fish stocks in the North East Atlantic and 87% in the Mediterranean and Black Seas are currently subject to unsustainable fishing practices, including stocks that are overfished or exploited at an unsustainable rate.

The onset of rapid climate-related changes in marine ecosystems will increase pressure on fish populations, with the potential of extinction for some species.

Ending overfishing would give the ocean respite from human pressure, making it more resilient to the effects of the climate crisis, while helping to restore critically valuable marine ecosystems, the paper notes.

A healthy person is more likely to survive an epidemic than a person who is less healthy, and because of overfishing we have severely weakened the ocean’s immune system. Ending overfishing now would strengthen the ocean, making it more capable of withstanding climate change and restoring marine ecosystems,

…said Dr Sumaila.

Due to the current inefficiencies that result in catching more fish than nature can generate, improvements in fisheries management to achieve MSY would not only increase long-term catch, but actually offset some of the negative effects of climate change on catches.

According to Our Fish, the report’s findings offer EU governments a realistic opportunity to deliver immediate and effective action on dangerous climate change, as well as meeting their legal obligations to finally quit overfishing.

In light of the aspirations of the EU and its member states for taking climate action, this paper makes clear that the first thing that EU decision makers must do is to end overfishing - and do so this year. Not only is ending overfishing by 2020 a legal obligation under the Common Fisheries Policy, and imperative for the future of EU fisheries and 250,000 jobs that depend on them, it will strengthen the ocean in the face of dangerous climate change,

…said Rebecca Hubbard, Programme Director of the Our Fish campaign, which commissioned the paper.

Last May, nine global ocean conservation leaders sent an official letter to the European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, urging him to use his “power, position, and responsibility” to end EU overfishing, ahead of the 2020 Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) deadline.

Researchers estimate that by ending overfishing, the EU could increase the amount of fish caught by up to 2 million tonnes per year, which could deliver an increase in net profits in the fishing and processing sectors by €965 million/year and an extra 92,000 jobs.

Speaking during Friends of Ocean Action in July, broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough highlighted that industrial overfishing is more dangerous to the ocean than plastic.

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