EU continues to overfish marine Wilderness

The European Union sets annual fishing quota in the “exclusive economic zone” (the sea zone belonging to EU member states) for all member states. In 2013, the European parliament committed to lower quotas to sustainable levels from 2015 on, so that fish population could recover until 2020.

“As of 2015, the principle of maximum sustainable yield shall apply, which means that each year we do not harvest more fish than a stock can reproduce. Our objective is that depleted fish stocks recover by 2020. Not only nature will benefit, but also fishermen: bigger stocks produce higher yields.”

So, we should have healthy fish populations and sustainable fishing quota today, right? Unfortunately the opposite is true. Even though 2020 is the legal deadline to end overfishing – stated in the Common Fisheries Policy -, no improvements were made. Ignoring scientists and experts, AGRIFISH, the responsible council, set unsustainable quotas once again.

Fish populations in Europe under threat

Many fish populations in European waters are seriously depleted and the main reason is overfishing. Besides unsustainably high fishing qoutas, the biggest probem is the discarding of dead fish at sea. Fishing quota are set per species, but fishermen cannot control what species they catch. So, it is common practice to throw fish back into the ocean, if the quota for a species is reached. With the commitment to sustainable quota, the Common Fisheries Policy also committed to end this practice. However, nothing has happenened so far.

It seems like the EU is putting short-term ecomonic profit before environmental issues and long-term economic sustainability. Once again, we can see that people demand environmental protection, but politicians do the opposite.

Wild oceans

While there is few real Wilderness left on land, most of the marine world is still mostly untouched Wilderness. At the same time, overfishing depletes fish populations around the world and threatens many species. In combination with climate change and warming oceans, this could develop into a disaster for marine wildlife in the next decades. Marine ecosystems can only thrive with healthy fish populations. And the oceans are so poorly explored that no one can know what will happen to these ecosystems, if we continue to overfish the oceans.

The EU, where fishery contributes less than 1% to the GDP, had the chance to lead by example, but AGRIFISH decided to continue its destructive practice. NGOs from around Europe reacted with shock. Many are not willing to accept that the EU breaks the legal obligations it set itself.

“Everybody must comply with the law – and politicians are no exception. Ministers decided today to breach the law, allowing overfishing even beyond 2020. This decision represents a betrayal of European citizens, and breaks their trust.”

Andrea Ripol
Fisheries policy officer at Seas At Risk

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