During the meeting together with Oceana experts, Dr. Pauly, a French citizen, Professor and Director of the Fisheries Center at the University of British Columbia in Canada, outlined measures that should be considered to reform Europe’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) in order to conserve fish stocks, provide a sustainable future for fishermen and protect the marine environment.
Oceana reminded that six years after the CFP underwent reform, the statistics on European fisheries remain bleak: the disastrous state of tuna stocks and mismanagement led to the closure of the fishery in the Mediterranean, the anchovy fishery in the Bay of Biscay is still closed and shark catches remain unregulated. 88% of EU fish stocks are overexploited, the fleet is at least 40% too large for available resources and repeated efforts to reduce the size have failed. Moreover, as fish stocks decline, fishermen need to fish harder and further to catch fish, reducing their profits and increasing environmental damage. The increasing fuel prices earlier this year only have exacerbated the situation.
“An absurd aspect of the CFP is that despite an overlarge EU fishing fleet, resulting in over fished stocks, subsidies that contribute to increasing fishing pressure, such as those that subsidise fuel costs, continue to be given to the sector by governments, in order to make fishing activities economically viable,” Dr. Pauly said. While these subsidies may increase profits in the short term, in the medium to long term this increased effort will cause further reductions in fish stocks, catches and profitability.
At the meeting, Dr. Pauly, Oceana Board Member, also discussed how over fishing does not only affect the conservation of fish stocks but can have adverse effects on the entire marine ecosystem. As well as directly affecting other ocean wildlife such as marine mammals and turtles, destructive fishing practices, such as bottom trawling, can severely damage the marine environment. Moreover, removing key species from the sea can often have long term and damaging effects on other species in the ecosystem and contribute to the disappearance of essential top predators such as tuna and sharks.
He also pointed out that the current level of fishing cannot be sustained by available stocks, and any reform must start with a significant reduction of capacity of the fleet. It was also mentioned how scientific advice is not often followed by decision makers, leading to the setting of catch limits above recommendations. Recent Oceana investigations have shown that over the past 20 years, 80% of scientific recommendations on European Total Allowable Catches (TACs) in the Northeast Atlantic have not been followed. This situation must be urgently changed. A key step to be undertaken for achieving sustainability is the exact application of scientific advice in European Union fisheries management.
The European Commission plans to launch a wide ranging consultation on the future of the CFP, scheduled for reform in 2012. Julie Cator, Oceana Europe´s Policy Director pointed out: “Oceana welcomes moves to revise the CFP. However, policy and decision makers must not be distracted from implementing important CFP regulations currently in the pipeline in order to implement the ongoing policy, such as strong management for sharks, eliminating discards and establishing effective control over Europe’s fisheries”. The level of commitment shown by Fisheries Ministers to agree current issues on the negotiation table, will be a good indication of Member States commitment to really improving the CFP.