Oceana urges EU Fisheries Ministers to consider the high level of discards in European fisheries during their discussions on 2008 quotas which begin today in Brussels.
Oceana, the international organization dedicated to conserving and protecting the world’s oceans, emphasizes the inefficiency of the current fish stocks management, which does not reflect real catches. In addition to the amounts of landings decided by the Council, tonnes of fish are also cut out from biological stocks by indirect impacts of fisheries, above all discards and by-catches. These must be carefully considered today and measures to eliminate them must be urgently decided.
Today TACs (Total Allowable Catches) and quotas will be decided for 2008. As usual, EU fisheries Ministers will battle it out to know how many tonnes of mackerel or cod European vessels will be allowed to catch and which quantities will be allocated to each Member State. And as it is to be expected, the proposed TACs and quotas won’t respect the scientific advice that only could ensure sustainability. As usual. But this is just a part of the problem.
Indeed, a significant portion of the hauls is discarded, i.e. dumped back at sea for one reason or another. Thus, discarded animals, including by-caught non commercial or protected species (many invertebrate species, some fishes’ species, birds, marine mammals, turtles…), and also many juveniles of commercial species have very little chance of survival.
The totals voted last year amounted to some 10 million tonnes of marine organisms. It is frightening to compare these with the latest estimations on discards. Each year, 1,35 million tonnes are dumped in European waters, among which two thirds in the North Sea, which represents 14,6% of the European landings according to the 2005 FAO assessment. This represents more than summed landings of Italy, Sweden, Ireland, Germany and Portugal. Some fisheries reject 80% of their catches, sometimes even more. This is for example the case of fisheries targeting brown shrimp Crangon crangon that discard dozens of billions small shrimps yearly but also dozens of millions young plaice, sole, cod and whiting.
“What happens each year in the December Council is a tragicomedy,” commented Gilles Doignon, Campaigner for Oceana Europe. “Ministers spend hours adopting quotas through complicated calculations, knowing they will be unevenly respected, but in the meantime, huge amounts taken from fish populations seem to be ignored in the management. Discards are a waste that not only threatens the fate of marine ecosystems but also simply jeopardizes the future of fisheries,” Doignon added.
In this context, Oceana highly recommends EU fisheries Ministers to define reliable TACs and quotas, by considering what is really removed from biological stocks, this is to say not only landings but also discards.
Moreover, Oceana urges EU fisheries Ministers to support the discard ban with supplementary measures as proposed by the Commission last March (COM(2007)136). This should be defined on a fishery by fishery basis and implemented progressively. All measures to increase gear selectivity and to help fishermen adapting to this new policy should be taken. Control and observers coverage must be reinforced to ensure an equal and impartial system.
“Without strong commitment of the EU to properly manage all targeted species by considering real catches, the situation will continue to deteriorate and the Council of December 2007 will be as dramatic as all previous ones, for marine organisms as for European fishermen. In the future, reducing by-catches to as close to 0 as possible and banning discards must be the highest priorities”, concluded Ricardo Aguilar, Research Director for Oceana Europe.