WHY is the EU Commission Stalling on Ending Overfishing?

Fishing dragger hauls in net full of Atlantic Cod fish

Fishing trawler hauls in net full of Atlantic Cod fish (Alamy)

On December 17, 2018 Our Fish and our partners WeMoveEU, Seas At Risk and Deutsche Umwelthilfe, greeted fisheries ministers (the AGRIFISH Council) in Brussels with a petition of over 350,000 people, calling on them to deliver on their commitment to end overfishing by 2020. Even the God of the Ocean Poseidon, and his Minister for Fish – with trumpeters and the whole shebang were there to emphasise just how important it is that EU decision makers act on these commitments, and start delivering their benefits now.

The European Commission has replied, seeking to assure us – and you that they are making progress towards ending overfishing. They say that an increase from 56 to 59 fishing limits, or TACs (total allowable catches or annual fishing limits) in line with scientific advice is good progress. We disagree.

An analysis by the New Economics Foundation, shows that for 120 TAC decisions made (or confirmed) at the December meeting, 55 TACs exceeded the advice, amounting to 312,000 tonnes of excess TAC – yes – 312,000,000 kilograms of fish. That’s a lot of overfishing.

While the Commission is certainly not the only one to blame for this failure – many fisheries ministers negotiated hard – it is shocking that the Commission justifies this outcome as good “progress”. Perhaps even more concerning is that the Commission is talkinging about the percentage of the total catch that is in line with scientific advice, rather than the number of individual stocks still being overfished. This distorts the perception of progress to end overfishing of EU fish stocks as there are many smaller stocks which are vulnerable and valuable and in need of recovery.

We will be continuing our work for healthier oceans and an end to EU overfishing in 2019 – and we hope you can join us – fish and the ocean are, after all, your precious public resources! Sign the petition to end overfishing and receive updates on the campaign here.

Rebecca Hubbard, Our Fish Programme Director