EU fisheries management hits difficulties

EU fisheries management hits difficulties According to Europêche, the increase in NE Atlantic fish stocks was been made possible by a far-reaching reduction in fishing effort

With the The European Commission launching its annual consultation on the state of fish stocks and the preparation for setting fish quotas for next year marked by the objective to fish all stocks at MSY levels by 2020, the good news is that most of the stocks in the North East Atlantic have already reached this target, according to Europêche managing director Daniel Voces.

However, some fish populations are struggling to rebuild or even to remain at current level – and the answer may be found in the latest scientific advice which revealed major challenges in some fisheries caused by the destabilising effect of the full introduction of the landing obligation and environmental factors such as climate change.

“Scientific data prove that the introduction of the EU landing obligation has been and still is more complex than politicians have foreseen and has led to unintended, harmful consequences in fisheries management, undoing the achievements and sacrifices made over the past years by fishermen,” he said.

“It confirms that from the perspective of fisheries management there was no need to introduce the landing obligation in the EU. The landing obligation is changing fishing patterns with potentially (and mostly still unknown) destabilising knock-on effects. The advised steep TAC reduction for cod will certainly lead to choke situations in many fisheries, preventing fishermen from fully utilising their quota with significant economic losses as a consequence.”

He pointed out that in the NE Atlantic there have been very quickly realised achievements as in 2019, 59 out of 76 TACs have been set according to MSY levels compared to only five in 2009.

“In addition, the size of the fish stocks in the NE Atlantic has increased by more than 36% on average over the last 10 years. This huge improvement has only been made possible by a strong reduction in fishing effort. Still, it must be acknowledged, effort reductions do not always translate into larger quotas,” he said, commenting that southern North Sea and eastern Baltic cod stocks represent examples of fisheries which, despite continuous effort reductions and after years of slow but steady recovery, are again in sharp decline.

“Scientific data prove that the introduction of the EU landing obligation has been and still is more complex than politicians have foreseen and has led to unintended, harmful consequences in fisheries management, undoing the achievements and sacrifices made over the past years by fishermen. It confirms that from the perspective of fisheries management there was no need to introduce the landing obligation in the EU. The landing obligation is changing fishing patterns with potentially (and mostly still unknown) destabilising knock-on effects. The advised steep TAC reduction for cod will certainly lead to choke situations in many fisheries, preventing fishermen to fully utilise their quota with significant economic losses as a consequence.”

Europêche notes that even though the number of stocks fished at MSY levels has increased over time, statistical data show that the total production of seafood in the EU has not changed over the last 15 years.

“The CFP dictates the need to achieve MSY levels for all fish stocks by 2020, but at what cost? Science clearly indicates that having all stocks at MSY levels is an unrealistic expectation that could only be achieved through significant reduced yields. The EU cannot afford to offer less supply of fish to its home market resulting in an ever increasing self-sufficiency gap for seafood: Already more than 60% of EU seafood consumption is imported from non-EU countries. Fish must be a healthy protein accessible to all EU consumers, not a luxury item,” Daniel Voces said, adding that in this regard, the fishing sector has always advocated fishing main target stocks at MSY levels while monitoring the positive evolution of the by-catch stocks. This approach has led to the recovery and responsible fishing of many important fish stocks in the EU.

“The challenge still remains on how to deal with fisheries management for different ecosystem compositions. Trying to strike the right balance between harvesting predators such as cod and prey such as herring has proven to be difficult and complex.”

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