The EU’s Agriculture and Fisheries Council reached an agreement early Wednesday morning on 2019 fishing limits for commercial stocks in the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea. After all-night negotiations, the number of catch limits for EU fish stocks set at a sustainable level have increased from 53 to just 59 compared to 2018. Oceana considers this as very modest progress and insufficient to meet the 2020 legally-binding deadline for all fisheries to be sustainable in EU waters.
Oceana Europe’s executive director Lasse Gustavsson released this statement following the final agreement:
“The EU Fisheries Council has yet again rejected calls for the sustainable management of fishing in the Atlantic. Setting catch limits that, year after year, exceed scientific recommendations is ecologically and economically unwise and should no longer go unnoticed by civil society.
It’s time EU ministers stop wasting the opportunity to provide more food, create more jobs and generate more money. What they have not done today, they will have no choice but to fix this time next year, when they will be staring the 2020 deadline right in the face”.
Today’s Agriculture and Fisheries (AGRIFISH) Council decision includes commercially-important species, such as cod, hake, anglerfish, Norway lobster, sole, haddock, and horse mackerel. Scientists warn that around 4 out of 10 fish stocks in the European Atlantic—including the North Sea—are still overfished. In particular—cod in the west of Scotland and Celtic Sea, whiting in the Irish Sea, Norway lobster in the southern Bay of Biscay and plaice in the Celtic Sea South and Southwest of Ireland—are at alarming levels of overfishing.
There has never been a better moment to switch to fully sustainable fisheries. The EU fishing fleets already make record high net profits, an average of 17% (1.3 billion in 2016), which is a 68% increase compared to 2015 and with positive forecast for 2018. The average net profits are very high compared to other industries due to low fuel prices and improved productivity of certain stocks, therefore profitable fleets could afford a short-term necessary reduction in quotas for the sake of longer-term gains.
A recent study by Oceana’s Catchy Data calculated that in less than 10 years, if the stocks recover and are well-managed, the EU could increase the amount of fish landings from the North-Eastern Atlantic and the North Sea by 56%, which in terms of tonnes, would be more than 5 million. Turning to more sustainable fishing practices would also bring an increase for the region regarding the value of landings (from 3.42 billion euros to 5.25) and a rise in jobs in the fishing sector (from 36,437 to 49,456).