For the first time, the Council of EU ministers will limit the fishing effort in the Mediterranean, the world’s most overfished sea
On 16-17 December, the Agriculture and Fisheries Council of the EU (“Agrifish”) will decide on fishing limits in EU Atlantic waters and the North Sea for 2020. For the first time, measures will be approved for Western Mediterranean waters as well. Oceana urges ministers to meet this final extension of the legal deadline to stop overfishing – overfishing will be illegal in the EU after 2020, according to the Common Fisheries Policy.
Unsustainable fishing is an epidemic that has critically overexploited some of the most valuable fish stocks in our waters. Overfishing is the biggest single threat to marine ecosystems, as it undermines the ocean's resilience and ability to adapt to the climate crisis. Oceana highlights that it is a threat that can be easily fixed by mere political will.
Atlantic and North Sea: ignoring science in EU’s most productive waters
The December Council will also be the litmus test for the new Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, to negotiate sustainable fishing quotas with the Council. The Council has a long track record of overshooting scientifically advised fishing levels. Over 40% of Northeast Atlantic assessed fish stocks still remain overfished.
“Stopping overfishing by 2020 is the least ministers can immediately do to save the ocean, it is their executive decision and responsibility”, stressed Agnes Lisik, policy advisor with Oceana in Europe. “It’s also about the EU’s credibility: If the European Green Deal is to be taken seriously, the EU must first meet its commitments and obligations. Environmental laws are not being fully implemented and deadlines and targets are being disregarded”.
Mediterranean: chronic overfishing and fraud, a perfect storm
For the first time, ministers will also define fishing effort (days at sea) for trawlers operating in France, Italy and Spain. The Mediterranean is the world’s most overfished sea, with over 80% of assessed stocks overexploited. The proposed 10% reduction in the number of fishing days for 2020 is insufficient to bring in any visible benefits, mainly due to the excessive capacity of the fleet and the widespread fraud in engine power unveiled by an EU audit and other sources of information.
“Mediterranean trawlers cheat with their engine power to be 2 or 3 times more powerful than permitted by law. It’s no a surprise that the true level of fishing has been underestimated for years. EU Fisheries Ministers can no longer ignore this type of fraud on such a massive scale. France, Italy and Spain must factor in engine fraud and adopt stronger fishing effort reductions than proposed by the European Commission, at least by 20%”, said Nicolas Fournier, policy manager with Oceana in Europe.
Overexploitation’s Top 5 in the Atlantic:
Overexploitation’s Top 3 in Western Mediterranean:
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