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23rd Jan 2022

EU states continue to overfish

  • The EU commission proposed that fishing of herring in some areas should be reduced by some 16 percent compared with last year, but fisheries ministers decided the quotas would remain at the same level (Photo: Annelieke B)

Fisheries ministers decided on Tuesday (13 December) to continue overfishing several stocks, although they pointed out that the number of fish stocks that will be fished sustainably is increasing.

They agreed on quota for 161 different stocks in the Atlantic, North Sea and Black Sea. For 34 of them, or 26.7 percent, ministers adopted higher quota than the European Commission proposed.

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“As you know, the Commission has put forward bold proposals for a number of stocks,” said environment and fisheries commissioner Karmenu Vella.

“Even though the final Council compromise does not reach the same level of ambition, it still makes considerable progress towards more sustainable management of our fisheries.”

The annual setting of fisheries quota is a national power in which the European Parliament is not involved.

The commission proposes quotas for fish species based mostly on scientific advice. However, fisheries ministers also have the economic interests of their nations in mind, leading to an annual haggling over the stock quota.

“Negotiations were very difficult,” said Slovak minister Gabriela Matecna, who chaired the long meeting.

"Sustainability has been the driver of today's agreement: the sustainability of our fish stocks, but also that of our fisheries sector."

Matecna pointed out that the limits for 44 stocks are in line with scientific advice, up from 36 last year.

The maximum volume of fish that can be caught sustainably is called the maximum sustainable yield (MSY).

Member states had earlier agreed that fish quota would be in line with MSY by 2020.

Environmental protection groups were disappointed, as they have been over the past years.

“Once again, ministers approved catch limits for 2017 that surpass scientific recommendations, ignoring the facts that 64 percent of European stocks are overfished and 85 percent are below healthy levels,” said the environmentalist lobby group Oceana in a press statement.

"By ignoring science in favour of short-term interests, Ministers are acting both economically and ecologically irresponsibly."

EU overpaid for fishing rights, auditor says

According to the European Court of Auditors, fish caught by European fishermen in the South Atlantic and Indian oceans cost almost €34 million more than necessary.

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