EU countries once again turn a deaf ear to scientific advice and ask for excessive fishing quotas.
EU Fisheries Ministers will meet on December 19th and 20th to debate the 2007 fishing quotas for European fleets.
Anchovy, cod, hake, megrim, Norwegian lobster and a long list of other marine species are overexploited and in serious decline, and EU fishing grounds are still showing a clear tendency toward collapse. Recent scientific assessments studies have highlighted this, and have led to calls for European countries to reduce their catches, and in some cases, even close certain fisheries.
Despite the alarming situation with many fish stocks, EU countries continue to demand increased quotas, exceeding the proposals from the European Commission which are already often excessive.
Oceana is asking the European Commission, and the governments of EU countries to change course in their fisheries policies and begin to consider the warnings arriving from all sides of the scientific world.
The following are among Oceana’s requests for the fishing quota decisions to be taken for 2007:
- Anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus)
The anchovy fishery in the Bay of Biscay should remain closed until the stock recovers. The fishery in the Gulf of Cadiz should be sensibly reduced so that this stock avoids the risk run by the Cantabric stock.
- Hake (Merluccius merluccius)
The southern hake stock (found in the Bay of Biscay and Iberian waters) is severely overexploited. Scientists have advised closure of this fishery for the fifth year in a row, but this was not considered by the European Commission or the countries which exploit this stock. The northern hake stock has shown slight signs of recovery, but still finds itself at risk of collapse. As such, catches over 50,000 tonnes should not be permitted.
- Cod (Gadus morhua)
Scientists have requested the closure of most cod fisheries in European waters. Only the Norwegian and Arctic stocks are in a better situation and can withstand moderate catches. Despite this, the European Commission’s proposals would allow thousands of tonnes of the severely threatened cod to be caught.
Only a few species of sharks are covered by the quota system; the rest are caught in fisheries without controls or limits on their capture. The few proposals for shark quotas are excessive, as they were for the deep sea shark quotas agreed in November, and ICES (International Counsel for the Exploration of the Seas) has recommended a zero quota for certain species. If accepted by the Fisheries Council, the proposals would authorize a capture of 841 tonness of spiny dogfish (or, spurdog) and 240 tonnes of porbeagle shark, despite the fact that both of these species are characterized as Critically Endangered in the Northeast Atlantic and have been proposed for protection under international conventions.
- Monkfish (Lophius sp.) and Megrim (Lepidorhombus sp.)
The majority of the stocks of these species are overexploited in European waters, but there are still attempts to authorize increased catches in some areas in spite of the scientific data advising against it. Furthermore, there is still no requirement to differentiate between the numerous species grouped under these generic names, making effective management even more difficult.
- Blue whiting (Micromesistius poutassou)
This is the only species of substantial number in European waters, which has led to abusive quota allocations. This could quickly deteriorate the stock, therefore threatening the recovery of other species dependant on it as a prey species, such as hake.
- Other species
The Commission has indeed proposed catch reductions and limits for some species, closely following the scientific advice, and in some cases even adopted a precautionary approach. This has been the case for herring (Clupea harengus), haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus) and whiting (Merlangius merlangus). Unfortunately, this has not been the overall tendency for the European Commission’s proposals, and much less so for the demands from the EU countries.
Lastly, Oceana also reiterates that the reopening of the wasteful Northeast Atlantic deep-sea gillnet fishery for sharks, king crab, hake, and monkfish is completely ill-advised until permanent management measures can be put in place. Without these, this fishery will endanger all of the stocks caught, lead to excessive discards and negatively affect the traditional fishermen using the same fishing gear.