Agrifish: 70,000 People Join Demand to End EU overfishing as Ministers Decide Baltic limits

Luxembourg, 9 October 2017: As more than 70,000 EU citizens signed a petition calling for an end to overfishing and protection of EU waters, an enigmatic light painting depicting cod heads and money bags formed a cordon around the Luxembourg conference venue where EU fisheries ministers will discuss 2018 Baltic Sea fishing limits, during today’s AGRIFISH meeting.

“By creating this artwork, I want to highlight the link between industry influence that is fueling overfishing, as well as the lack of transparency in the decision-making process”, said Belgian street artist Gijs Vanhee, who collaborated with the Our Fish campaign to create the image outside the European Convention Center in Luxembourg.

“In just three days, over 70,000 people from across the EU have stepped forward to tell their governments to stop overfishing and safeguard the EU’s marine environment through the proper enforcement of already existing laws”, said Rebecca Hubbard, Program Director with Our Fish. “EU citizens clearly understand that Europe’s marine resources are under pressure and expect their governments to ensure we have healthy fish stocks and coastal communities for the future”.

The Council of EU fisheries ministers set 2017 fishing limits for four out of ten Baltic fish stocks above scientific advice, including a staggering 352% increase on scientific advice for Western Baltic Cod, despite the fact that they were teetering on the edge of commercial collapse [2].

“While Denmark and Germany have been pursuing overfishing of western Baltic cod under the excuse of avoiding social and economic impacts, most of the quota flows to destructive trawlers that cause the biggest environmental impact, while reaping higher profits than lower-impact coastal fishers [2]. The reality is that Denmark and Germany can make fishing ecologically sustainable and economically fair during today’s Council meeting, by setting Total Allowable Catches (TACs) at the the most cautious end of scientific advice, and changing the way quotas are allocated within their own countries,” continued Hubbard [3].

“Western Baltic cod is in a desperate situation, with populations at their second lowest level in thirty years. To rebuild stocks to healthy levels, western Baltic cod must be given a break from overexploitation”, said Hubbard. [4] “The fishing industry has never had a better moment for reinventing itself as a sustainable industry – fuel prices are at an all time low, relative profits of the fishing industry are at an all time high, and evidence shows that the faster we end overfishing, the greater the economic benefits will be [3].”

EU Agrifish Council meetings are closed to the public, there is no public record of debates, and the Council refuses to publicly livestream the sessions where annual fishing limits are decided. Meanwhile fishing industry lobbyists have repeatedly gained insider access to Agrifish meeting venues using press passes, giving them unfair influence on final decisions [5].

“The Fisheries Ministers meeting behind closed doors here today will have an impact on our ocean, our food, and our communities. Their decisions must be based on scientific advice and EU law, rather than narrow profit-based interests of a small number of fishing industry heavyweights. By ending overfishing and returning EU fish stocks to healthy levels, we could provide enough fish to feed 89 million people and support 20,000 more jobs [6]”, concluded Hubbard.




High resolution photograph of the artwork by Gijs Vanhee is available for download and use in relation to this story.


Dave Walsh, Communications Advisor, +34 691826764

Rebecca Hubbard, Program Director, +34 657669425

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Today’s AGRIFISH meeting is taking place at the European Convention Center Luxembourg (ECCL)

[1]The Petition hosted by WeMove.EU in partnership with Our Fish, Seas At risk and IFAW, was launched on Friday, October 6th

[2] The reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) that entered into force in 2014 aims to restore and maintain populations of fish stocks above levels capable of supporting MSY. The corresponding exploitation rate was to be achieved by 2015 where possible and by 2020 at the latest for all stocks. Following scientific advice is essential if we are to achieve this goal, end overfishing, and restore fish stocks to healthy levels.

New Economics Foundation (2017), Landing the Blame – Overfishing in the Baltic 2017.

“German and Danish Governments are also under intense pressure from the trawler-dominated Baltic Sea Advisory Council, who are proposing a western Baltic cod limit of 8,597 tonnes, which includes an extra 3,000 tonnes under the auspices of eastern Baltic cod mixing in the western baltic zones. Environmental NGOs, the European Anglers Association and the Latvian fishing association voted against this quota transfer in the Baltic Sea Advisory Council, as it further threatens the vulnerable western Baltic cod stock and disenfranchises eastern Baltic countries of their fisheries rights.”

[3] Our Fish & New Economics Foundation (2017), How Denmark can make fisheries sustainable and fair

Our Fish & New Economics Foundation (2017), Germany’s blind spot for sustainable fisheries

[4] Despite a strong 2016 year class, stocks are still at the second lowest biomass levels since the early 1980s, and outside of safe limits for repopulating to a healthy state.

ICES (2017), ICES Advice on fishing opportunities, catch, and effort, Baltic Sea Ecoregion. Published 31 May 2017. Cod.27.22-24

[5] Fishing For Influence, Corporate Europe Observatory and Seas At Risk, viewed 8/10/2017 at

[6] Carpenter, G. & Esteban, A. (2015). Managing EU fisheries in the public interest. London: New Economics Foundation.  

[7] Last week during the Our Ocean conference in Malta, Michelin-starred chefs from France, Spain and Italy wrote to their respective fisheries ministers and to EU Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner Karmenu Vella, to demand urgent action on the region’s growing fisheries crisis.

Michelin Starred Chefs and World Famous Street Artists Call for an end to Overfishing To Save Mediterranean Iconic Food and Culture

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.