EU deals ‘catastrophic’ blow to sustainable fishing practices

Overfishing in waters stretching from the UK to Portugal looks set to continue for the next five years after MEPs yesterday voted to ditch a deadline that would have ended the practice by 2020.



Environmental lawyers described the decision to postpone the deadline for the western waters area to 2023 as “catastrophic”, with 41% of fish stocks assessed in the zone currently subject to overfishing.

The MEPs also voted to reject a new management regime for the Adriatic Sea where more than 90% of assessed fish stocks are over-exploited, dealing a major blow to sustainable practices in Italian, Croatian and Slovenian waters.

Although conceding that some regions might find it hard to meet the 2020 deadline, ClientEarth lawyer Klaudija Cremers said the target still provides strong incentives to improve fishing practices.

“There is no good reason – scientifically, environmentally or economically – to simply give up at this stage,” she continued. “It seriously undermines the Common Fisheries Policy and creates an unequal level playing field.”

Cremers went on to say that the MEP vote would allow fishing in banned areas under certain conditions and risk a “legal limbo” by applying an expiration date to the rules managing fishing quotas.

In the case of the Adriatic Sea, the European Parliament's Committee on Fisheries vote was in favour of reducing catches of sardines and anchovies by 4% annually between 2020 and 2022.

However, this is far less than the scientific recommendation to immediately reduce catches of these species by 5% and 25% respectively in order to avoid a “total collapse” of their populations.

WWF European Policy Office head of marine policy, Samantha Burgess, said the vote suggests that MEPs are more strongly influenced by industry short-term bottom lines than scientific advice.

MEPs will have the chance to reverse the decision in a final parliamentary vote in November.

“The upcoming plenary vote must show significantly more determination to stand by the EU’s commitment to restore and sustain European seas by 2020,” Burgess added.


Image credit | iStock

Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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