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Oceana stresses that around 40 per cent of Atlantic fish stocks and 87 per cent of Mediterranean ones are caught unsustainably.

EU to fail at recovering overexploited fish stocks by 2020 deadline, report finds

Friday, April 12, 2019, 21:00 (GMT + 9)

Oceana is seriously concerned that overfishing is plaguing EU seas, following a new report released by the European Commission.

Figure 1. Trends in stock status in the Northeast Atlantic 2003-2017. Two indicators are presented: blue line: the proportion of  verexploited stocks (F>FMSY) within the sampling frame (64 to 70 stocks fully assessed, depending on year) and orange line: the proportion of stocks outside safe biological limits (F>Fpa or B<Bpa) (out of a total of 46 stocks).

The ocean-conservation organization highlights that around 40 per cent of Atlantic stocks and 87 percent of Mediterranean ones are found to be fished unsustainably. And warns that as the 2020 deadline for ending overfishing is fast approaching, scientists confirm, with just months to go, the EU countries are still nowhere near reaching the legal obligation of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

Figure 2. Trends in fishing pressure. Three model based indicators F/FMSY are presented (all referring to the median value of the model): one for 48 EU stocks with appropriate information in the NE Atlantic (red line); one for an additional set of 11 stocks also  located in the NE Atlantic but outside EU waters (green line), and one for the 47 assessed stocks from the Mediterranean & Black Seas (black line).

The 2019 report by the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) confirms that many fish stocks in European waters remain overfished or are outside the biological limits considered to be safe. Vital fish stocks are on the verge of collapse, including Iberian sardine, Mediterranean hake and Eastern Baltic cod, which may suffer commercial extinction in European waters in the near future.

Figure 3. Trends in the indicators of stock biomass (median values of the model-based estimates relative to 2003). Three indicators are presented: one for the NE Atlantic (55 stocks considered, blue line); one for the Mediterranean & Black Seas (45 stocks, black line); and one for data limited stocks (ICES category 3, 72 stocks, green line).

“Overfishing is one of the big threats currently facing European seas alongside other major problems such plastic pollution, acidification, global warming etc. However, overfishing is the issue that can more easily be solved, as the solutions are known and are simply a matter of political will. Politicians need to move from words to actions and fulfil their obligation to stop overfishing as the time for it ends this year,” said Javier López, policy manager for Oceana in Europe.

Scientists have a clear message: The EU is not delivering on their agreed and binding commitments, the progress achieved so far is insufficient and too slow to ensure that stocks will be rebuilt or exploited at sustainable levels by 2020.

The report acknowledges some improvements in Atlantic waters, in particular for stocks exploited in EU waters whilst for Atlantic stocks shared with third countries, the improvements are not so obvious. Unfortunately, the Mediterranean and Black Sea -the most overfished region in the world- seem far from achieving any progress in the recovery of fish resources, but instead remain in a dire state.

According to the international organization, the current worrying situation is the responsibility of both the European Commission as well as member states, which accepted 6 years ago the commitment to make sure that overfishing is stopped in the EU, a goal they seem unlikely to reach.

Oceana is demanding urgent and concrete action from lawmakers to stop overfishing such as setting catch limits based on science and adopting emergency measures, including closing fisheries, for stocks to be able to meet the 2020 deadline.

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