Time for the EU to Stop Wasting Fish, and Start Moving Towards More Selective Fisheries

A new report published by Our Fish on November 15th 2017, on the discarding of Baltic Sea fish, reveals that compliance with the reformed Common Fisheries Policy’s Landing Obligation is almost non-existent in the Baltic Sea [1]. This implementation failure jeopardises the sustainability of fish stocks, undermines scientific advice, and exposes the European seafood supply chain to unprecedented levels of illegal behaviour.

After almost 900,000 EU citizens actively supported a ban on discards during the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, retailers and consumers might be shocked to find that cod on their supermarket shelves  is likely to be from a Baltic fishery that is illegally discarding.

While the case of illegal discarding is particularly alarming with respect to Baltic cod, it is not at all limited to these fisheries.

Total Allowable Catches (TACs) decided in the upcoming EU-Norway bilateral negotiations and at the Agrifish Council meeting on December 11-12th are also critical to the EU complying with the reformed CFP.

Currently, six out of ten of the EU’s fish stocks in the North East Atlantic do not meet the CFP’s Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) objectives, aimed at ending long-term overfishing [2].

During the 2016 EU-Norway negotiations, member states agreed on many fishing limits that were too high – as is often the case [3]. The EU delegation also informed Norway it would give quota top-ups to certain fleet sections that would be under the Landing Obligation in 2017, based on the assumption that the discard rate would be zero [4].

The EU cannot afford for the extremely low rate of compliance with the Landing Obligation in the Baltic to become a reality in the wider EU region, and cannot assume zero discard rates.

If EU fisheries ministers set TACs above scientific advice and add top-ups to account for increased landings as they did last year, without proof of compliance with the landing obligation, they will be effectively endorsing overfishing not just once, but twice!

This year, EU countries must set fishing opportunities for 2018 based on scientific advice, not exceeding maximum sustainable yield (MSY), ensure that TAC top-ups go only to fishing fleets that have high at-sea monitoring coverage and can demonstrate they are complying with the LO, and reallocate quota at a national level to prioritise vessels that have minimal environmental impact and comply with the LO.

EU member states signed up to the reformed CFP, and in so doing, they committed  to ending overfishing and a more sustainable model of fisheries management. It’s time to stop dragging feet and start the transition. It’s no longer optional, it is imperative.




[1] Our Fish (2017). Thrown Away: How Illegal Discarding in the Baltic Sea is Failing EU Fisheries and Citizens. our.fish/thrownaway2017

[2] Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) – Monitoring the performance of the Common Fisheries Policy (STECF-17-04))

[3] For cod in Skagerak: Scientific advice: 4716 tonnes (http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2016/2016/cod-347d.pdf)

EU-Norway TAC = 5047 tonnes (page 8, https://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/sites/fisheries/files/docs/pages/2017-agreed-record-eu-norway-skagerrak-12-2016.pdf)

For Whiting in Skagerak and Kattegat: Scientific advice = 135 tonnes (www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2015/2015/whg-kask.pdf)

EU-Norway TAC = 1050 tonnes (page 8, https://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/sites/fisheries/files/docs/pages/2017-agreed-record-eu-norway-skagerrak-12-2016.pdf)

For Whiting in the North Sea: Scientific advice = 9.744 tonnes (page 9, http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2016/2016/whg-47d.pdf).

EU-Norway TAC = 13.678 tonnes (page 5, https://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/sites/fisheries/files/docs/pages/2017-agreed-record-eu-norway-north-sea-12-2016.pdf)

[4] Agreed record of fisheries consultations between Norway and the European Union for 2017, Bergen, 2 December 2016. https://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/sites/fisheries/files/2017-agreed-record-eu-norway-skagerrak-pandalus-04-2017.pdf




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