Overfishing in the Mediterranean and north-east Atlantic is getting worse, according to a report released by the European Commission today.
The communication on fishing opportunities for 2015, an annual exercise that the Commission is required to carry out, found that the number of overfished stocks in the north-east Atlantic and adjacent waters has risen from 39% to 41%. The report says that 16 of 41 fish stocks that were assessed were overfished in 2013, increasing to 19 out of 46 in 2014.
The communication also indicates that in addition to an increase in the number of stocks being overfished, the rate of overfishing has gone up. In 2012, EU fisheries ministers set fishing limits at an average of 11% above the scientific advice; in 2014 the average limits were significantly higher, at 35% above scientific recommendations.
The situation in the Mediterranean is even worse: 96% or more of Mediterranean bottom-living species are overfished, and for middle-water stocks such as sardine and anchovy the figure is 71% or more. In the Black Sea, all bottom-living fish and 33% of pelagic stocks are overfished.
“I am very worried how badly things are going in the Mediterranean Sea,” said Maria Damanaki, the European commissioner for maritime affairs and fisheries. “Now that scientists have assessed many more fish stocks over the last five years, the time of denial is over: the Mediterranean Sea is heavily overfished.
“I see a long struggle and hard work ahead,” she added. “We need to build up the science, adopt regional fishing plans to bring fishing down to sustainable levels. If we do not act now, we will lose the tremendous potential of these resources for future generations. The new Common Fisheries Policy offers an opportunity that we must live up to, and I shall be discussing this with all the fisheries ministers in the Mediterranean member states.”
Uta Bellion, director of the campaign group Pew Charitable Trusts’ European marine programme, said that member states took their eye off the ball while negotiating Common Fisheries Policy reform. “In the last two years, at the same time that they were agreeing on a Common Fisheries Policy reform to end EU overfishing, fisheries ministers have gone back to setting fishing limits significantly above scientific advice,” she said. “This communication is a wake-up call to all EU citizens to press decision-makers to show as much ambition in implementing the Common Fisheries Policy as they did in reforming it.”
Member states will now give their responses to the communication. This is the first fishing consultation paper since the entry into force of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy on 1 January.
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