Europêche responds to Pew report

Europêche president Javier Garat has issued a statement in response to The Pew Charitable Trusts’ ‘Turning The Tide’ report and its “misleading” claims.

Mr Garat says that the report claims that the changes to end overfishing adopted at the last reform of the Common Fisheries Policy are being threatened by high quota allocations and short termism.

“I have to challenge this assertion and make clear that Pew’s report is hugely misleading”, he said.

He points out that the number of stocks within safe biological limits has almost doubled in the last decade, a fact which Pew fails to acknowledge. In the North East Atlantic many fisheries are already on the way to being put on a sustainable footing and great progress has been made by the industry itself to ensure stocks are healthy and abundant.

Mr Garat says that the definition of overfishing has evolved so much over the years - where once it meant stocks below a safe minimum, it now means stocks not yet at maximum in terms of sustainable yield. What would once be considered healthy is now considered overfished. However Mr Garat points out that, even by this new definition, a decline in the number of 'overfished' stocks could be seen well before Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) targets were in put in place during the CFP Reform.

He also says that scientific TAC advice is set within the policy framework to deliver MSY by 2015 and 2020 at the latest, which is to give the sector time to adapt to the inevitable hefty cuts in quota, which will be slowly increasing year on year.

“Environmentalists cannot lay claim to changing the tide of overfishing and depleting stocks,” says Mr Garat. “The tide turned 15 years ago, with fishing mortality across all the main stocks in the North East Atlantic being halved since 2000. The reason the Pew organisation may not be aware of this is because it is many years before it expressed any interest in our fisheries and a full 13 years before the CFP reform.

“We can identify around 20 individual measures that underpin this turnaround, probably the most significant being the fleet reduction in various member states. Major advances in fishing gear and techniques have also played a part. All stocks are responding to these changes – some dramatically, others more slowly – but the fact is Pew has failed to acknowledge this natural variation.”

He says that Europêche and the wider fishing industry welcome input to address and overcome challenges in achieving sustainable fisheries. However, he says that no progress will be made by “being selective with the facts to constantly portray fishing in the most negative light”.

*** UPDATE ***

Since this article was published, Uta Bellion, director of the European Marine Programme at The Pew Charitable Trusts, has contacted WF&A with the following statement in response to this article:

"Pew adheres to the highest standards of accuracy and integrity in all its work. It is important to note that the data in Turning the Tide come from a number of respected marine scientists, and in accordance with Pew’s policy on scientific and technical reports, the publication was carefully researched and peer-reviewed.

The data indicate that the fisheries in Europe’s north-west waters are still in decline in ways that will have negative economic consequences for large numbers of people and fishing communities. It is evident that fisheries ministers need to act without delay to restore stocks to sustainable levels before it becomes more difficult to do so. Time is running out."

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