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Oceana: EU’s last chance to fulfil the law and stop overfishing

For the first time, the Council of EU ministers will limit the fishing effort in the Mediterranean, the world’s most overfished sea

Press Release Date

Friday, December 13, 2019
Location: Brussels
Contacts:
Natividad Sánchez: nsanchez@oceana.org 0034 911 440 880
Irene Campmany: icampmany@oceana.org

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:

  • Cod in the west of Scotland
  • Whiting in the Irish Sea, southern Celtic Sea and western English Channel
  • Norway lobster in the southern Bay of Biscay, western Galicia and northern Portugal
  • Plaice in the Celtic Sea South and southwest of Ireland
  • Herring in the Irish Sea, Celtic Sea, sourthwest of Ireland, west of Scotland and west of Ireland

Overexploitation’s Top 3 in Western Mediterranean:

  • European hake in the Gulf of Lion
  • Red mullet in Alboran Sea and northern Spain
  • Norway lobster in the Balearic Islands

Learn more:

Joint NGO recommendations on the setting of Northeast Atlantic fishing opportunities for 2020

Oceana recommendations: Fishing opportunities for the Western Mediterranean Sea  

#AGRIFISH #StopOverfishing #CFPReality #WestMedMAP #MedFish4Ever