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Oceana stresses the need for sustainable catch limits as European Parliament decides on future of North Sea fisheries

Oceana has been actively campaigning for the new fisheries management plan to deliver fish stock recovery and put an end to overfishing

Brussels—July 10, the Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament is voting this Wednesday (July 12) on the North Sea multiannual management plan for fish species living near the sea bottom. The plan is due to cover nearly one-third of all fish catches in EU waters, and includes species such as cod, haddock, whiting, sole, plaice and Norwegian lobster. Oceana has persistently advocated for introducing sustainable catch limits in the plan and protecting spawning and breeding grounds, in order to effectively put an end to overfishing in the region. The North Sea hosts several of Europe’s most important fishing grounds with annual catches of 1.3 million tonnes. However, nearly half of the North Sea stocks are still overfished, including haddock and whiting. If managed sustainably and based on scientific recommendations, the stocks have the potential to produce an additional 1.45 million tonnes of fish annually. Scientists have estimated that for example, haddock and cod catches in the North Sea could increase by up to 400%:

“We must get rid of the traditional annual horse-trading of fishing quotas which does not comply with science and sustainability but rather suits short-term political interests subject to the industry’s lobby,” said Lasse Gustavsson, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe. “The new long-term plan for the North Sea is an opportunity to achieve the needed predictability for fishermen, as well as abundance of fish but only under certain conditions: it must be based on science, it has to prioritize full fish stock recovery, and it has to put an end to overfishing.”

The European Union has a legal obligation under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) regulation to rebuild its fish stocks and to stop overfishing by 2020. However, without proper implementation, even the most ambitious policy remains a paper tiger. Oceana calls on the members of the European Parliament to demonstrate a real commitment to sustainability. Oceana and several other NGOs have been calling for a more ambitious and robust plan that would address the shortcomings of the Baltic Sea plan, which still allows for fishing above sustainable levels. The North Sea multiannual plan can only deliver the CFP objectives when the following principles are included:

  • Ending overfishing by applying catch limits according to best available scientific advice
  • Prioritizing the restoration of abundance and the reduction of unwanted catches by protecting fish stock recovery areas which will safeguard spawning and nursing grounds
  • Restore and maintain all harvested fish populations above levels that can produce the so/called maximum sustainable yield (the maximum sustainable rate of exploitation)
  • Implement the ecosystem-based approach to fisheries and minimize the impact of fishing on sensitive species and habitats
  • Ensuring coherence with EU environmental legislation

To highlight the importance of the North Sea for marine biodiversity and fisheries, marine scientists from Oceana are currently undertaking a two-month marine expedition covering the waters of Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and The United Kingdom. The project aims to document sensitive habitats and species and to strengthen the network of marine protected areas in the region, including crucial fish stock recovery areas where fish are able to grow and reproduce.

NGOs priorities in the North Sea MAP and voting recommendations

Learn more about the 2017 North Sea expedition