On 22 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.
Despite expressing support for the Commissioner in his efforts to end overfishing in European waters, the nine ocean advocates acknowledged the challenges in overcoming the current status quo, where many stocks continue to be fished above scientific advice.
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.
The signatories also warned that the EU’s reputation as a global fisheries leader on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) has generated an expectation that the EU will get its own house in order – and that correspondingly, failure to end EU overfishing will undermine the success of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy.
First introduced in the 1970s, the CFP is a set of rules for managing European fishing fleets and for conserving fish stocks. Designed to manage a common resource, it gives all European fishing fleets equal access to EU waters and fishing grounds and allows fishermen to compete fairly.
As the letter reads, a recent analysis revealed that in December 2017, 57 EU fishing limits were set above scientific levels, contrary to the goals of the reform, which risks failing to achieve the CFP’s goals by 2015 or 2020. Battling short-term interests and lack of political will across several member states has delayed a turnover to the situation.
Our Fish Programme Director, Rebecca Hubbard, said:
With the 2020 CFP deadline to end overfishing coming up fast, EU fisheries ministers are sailing perilously close to the wind. Instead of safely reaching sustainable 2020 destination, the EU is in danger of floundering far from shore, thanks to myopic, short-term decision-making that favours the demands of big fishing industry players, over the long term health of fisheries. Commissioner Vella has taken the lead on setting a course towards sustainable EU fisheries, now fisheries ministers must join him in ending Europe’s addiction to overfishing.
In 2017, an update of the World Bank’s Sunken Billions report estimated that better management of global fisheries would unlock $83 (€70) billion in additional revenues worldwide. In the EU, millions of tonnes of fish have been discarded at sea, and over 40% of Atlantic fish stocks and over 90% of Mediterranean stocks are now overfished.
The letter was signed by Kristian Parker of the Oak Foundation, Jane Lubchenco of Oregon State University, Rashid Sumaila of UBC Institute for the Oceans & Fisheries, Torsten Thiele of the Global Ocean Trust, Ayana Elizabeth Johnson of Ocean Collectiv, Pascal Lamy of the Jacques Delors Institute, Enric Sala of the National Geographic Society, Kristina Gjerde of the IUCN Global Marine & Polar Program and photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand.
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