By Lasse Gustavsson, the Executive Director of World Ocean Festival supporter Oceana in Europe, the world’s largest international advocacy organisation focused solely on marine conservation.
For the first time ever, we know the full potential of fish recovery in Europe and it’s good news!
If we fully implement the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and manage stocks sustainably, fish catches can increase by 57% or 5 million tonnes. That’s a lot of extra fish currently missing from European seas.
Oceana recently commissioned the largest ever study of European fisheries to renowned fisheries expert Dr. Rainer Froese, Kiel University. His international research team analysed 397 European fish stocks. In comparison EU tracks only 150 fish stocks.
According to the study, 85% of European fish stocks are in an unhealthy state. But the stocks can be rebuilt and if managed sustainably and based on scientific advice, catches can increase by 57% or 5 million tonnes. That’s good news for fishermen and consumers alike because more fish in the sea will provide more jobs in the fishing industry and deliver more healthy fish for European dinner tables.
For many years, scientists and marine conservation organisations have argued for science based fisheries management, but in vain. Politicians have continued to ignore science when they decide on catches and quotas and as a result we have been taking more fish out of the sea than the stocks can naturally replenish. That’s why we have declining catches, fewer jobs and an increasing dependence on fish imported from outside Europe. The blame lies at the feet of politicians but it is also politicians who can turn the situation around.
The CFP reform in 2014 was meant to finally bring proper fisheries management to European waters and requires all fish stocks to be above healthy levels by 2020 at the latest. This is looking increasingly unlikely. Only 12% of European fish stocks are currently fulfilling CFP commitments. However, although the CFP deadline is looming, the report explains that most stocks are able to be restored back to sustainable levels within 3 years so the goal is still achievable.
Oceana’s study has made the scientific case for recovery stronger than ever and politicians can no longer ignore the benefits of rebuilding fish stocks.
EU Agriculture and Fisheries ministers must abandon their short term approach and instead focus their efforts on recovering healthy and productive fish stocks for the benefit of all Europeans. There is no acceptable reason to deny the people in Europe the benefits of abundant and well managed seas. Politicians have both the scientific knowledge and the regulatory framework for recovering the stocks and delivering sustainable fisheries management – the only thing that is missing is their political courage. Now is the time for ministers to stand up and be counted and do their job – to represent the best interests of Europeans and realise the potential of a hugely underutilised natural resource.