AGRIFISH: Will Denmark Break EU Legal Deadline to End Overfishing?




Projection against overfishing on the European Convention Centre, ahead of the AGRIFISH EU Council meeting of fisheries ministers, Luxembourg, 13 October 2019. Non-governmental organisations have called for an end to overfishing in EU waters, in line with EU member state commitments to follow the law and fish within scientific limits by 2020.

Projection against overfishing on the European Convention Centre, ahead of the AGRIFISH EU Council meeting of fisheries ministers, Luxembourg, 13 October 2019. Non-governmental organisations have called for an end to overfishing in EU waters, in line with EU member state commitments to follow the law and fish within scientific limits by 2020. Photo: Vio Dudau



Luxembourg 14 October 2019:- As EU Fisheries Ministers gather today to set quotas for Baltic fish catches, the Our Fish campaign called for the European Commission and EU Baltic member state Denmark to reverse plans to continue fishing above sustainable levels and instead stick to the limits proposed by science.

The EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council (AGRIFISH) meeting in Luxembourg (October 14-15th) will set Total Allowable Catches (TACs) – fishing limits – for fish caught in the Baltic Sea for 2020 [1]. Under the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) – and thus by law, the EU must set TACs in line with scientific advice by 2015, or by 2020 at the latest [2].

“The EUs own 2020 deadline to ending overfishing is here. However, all indications are that this EU Council will give its blessing to continued overfishing in the impoverished Baltic Sea, based on flawed short term economic arguments,” said Rebecca Hubbard, Programme Director of Our Fish. “Given that this behaviour has brought about a situation where a number of fish populations are collapsing, and with climate breakdown putting pressure on the ocean, it’s scandalous that some EU fisheries ministers are still entertaining the illusion that nature’s limits can be negotiated.”

“Not only does EU law require ministers to end overfishing in the Baltic Sea during this AGRIFISH meeting, the EU’s stated commitment to a New Green Deal also demands that we take action to address the biodiversity and climate crises we are facing. In this context, ending overfishing is one of the fastest, simplest and most achievable solutions the EU can deliver,” Hubbard continued. [3]

The EU Commission has already proposed a TAC for western Baltic herring above the scientific advice of zero, while Denmark will continue to push for fishing far above scientific advice for western Baltic herring, which is on the brink of commercial collapse. [4,5]

Western Baltic herring and eastern Baltic cod are on the verge of collapse, following years of bad fisheries management decisions that have consistently put short-term industry interests ahead of long term security of fish populations and socio-economic benefits, and which Denmark has proposed continuing this year [6]. The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) has recommended zero catch for both populations. [7]

“Ending overfishing in the Baltic and throughout EU waters would not only secure vital fish populations for the future, it would significantly improve ocean ecosystem health, making it stronger and more resilient to the climate crisis,” said Hubbard. [8]

“Putting an end to overfishing and protecting marine areas are essential climate actions that will protect habitats and biodiversity, replenish fish populations and marine food webs, improve the cycling and sequestering of carbon, and build ocean resilience to withstand dangerous climate change. It’s time for EU fisheries ministers to join other political leaders who are beginning to respond to the demands of our children for a safe, healthy planet, instead of listening to the pleading of business players who refuse to grasp the new realities we are facing.”

At the EU AGRIFISH Council meeting in Brussels, December 16-17th, ministers will agree quotas for fish populations Northeast Atlantic waters. [9]



Dave Walsh, Communications Advisor, +34 691 826 764,


[1] Agriculture and Fisheries Council, 14-15/10/2019

[2] Regulation (EU) No 1380/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council

Article 2.2: The CFP shall apply the precautionary approach to fisheries management, and shall aim to ensure that exploitation of living marine biological resources restores and maintains populations of harvested species above levels which can produce the maximum sustainable yield. In order to reach the objective of progressively restoring and maintaining populations of fish stocks above biomass levels capable of producing maximum sustainable yield, the maximum sustainable yield exploitation rate shall be achieved by 2015 where possible and, on a progressive, incremental basis at the latest by 2020 for all stocks.

[3] Letter to Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President-designate for the European Green Deal, from Ursula von der Leyen, President-elect of the European Commission 10 September 2019

[4] The European Commission Proposal for Baltic Sea fishing Total Allowable Catches:

[5] Rådsmøde (landbrug og fiskeri) den 14.-15. oktober 2019


[7] ICES advice on western Baltic herring published 29 May 2019 Reports/Advice/2019/2019/her.27.20-24.pdf

ICES advice on eastern Baltic cod, published 29 May 2019

NGOs recommendations on Baltic fishing opportunities for 2020:

[8] Rashid Sumaila, 2019, Working Paper: Ending Overfishing Can Mitigate Impacts of Climate Change

[9] Agriculture and Fisheries Council, 16-17/12/2019

Further reading:

October 2019 – Our Fish Briefing: Is Western Baltic Herring Essential for the Euro-Baltic Fish-Processing Plant?

October 2019 – The Fisheries Secretariat:

Adapt or die: Research indicates that management must change or Western Baltic cod fishery will collapse due to climate change

“When applying only low levels of fishing mortality, the stock is relatively insensitive to the single pressure of ocean warming, and the risk of stock collapse only slightly increases with increasing temperature.” Continued intense fishing will drastically raise the probability of a collapse.

October 2019: Baltic Fishing Decline Clear Evidence of Decades of Irresponsible Fisheries Management

September 2019: Baltic Eye – Stockholm University: Climate change is hitting the Baltic Sea extra hard

September 2019: Ending Overfishing Is Opportunity to Combat Climate Crisis – Report

September 2019: Over 50 NGOs Call on EU Leaders to Protect Ocean as Climate Action

August 2019: Lost opportunity: European Commission fails to propose an end to overfishing in the Baltic by 2020.

October 2018: AGRIFISH: What Will Convince EU Fisheries Ministers To End Baltic Overfishing?

About Our Fish

Our Fish works to ensure European member states implement the Common Fisheries Policy and achieve sustainable fish stocks in European waters.

Our Fish works with organisations and individuals across Europe to deliver a powerful and unwavering message: overfishing must be stopped, and solutions put in place that ensure Europe’s waters are fished sustainably. Our Fish demands that the Common Fisheries Policy be properly enforced, and Europe’s fisheries effectively governed.

Our Fish calls on all EU Member States to set annual fishing limits at sustainable limits based on scientific advice, and to ensure that their fishing fleets prove that they are fishing sustainably, through monitoring and full documentation of their catch.


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