To date, more than 100 fish stocks out of 153 are still being overfished in EU waters and the reduction of unwanted catches remains yet to be solved despite the attempts of regulation at EU level. According to the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy, discarding and overfishing are practices that have to come to an end within the EU by 2019 and 2020 respectively. However, Seas At Risk doubts that these goals will be achieved within the deadlines.  Progress has been very slow and decisions have often been influenced by economic interests to the detriment of the environment.

fish market B pixabay

In the coming months there will be several decisions at EU level which will put to the test the determination of EU ministers in their commitment to make the European fishing sector sustainable.

The first litmus test took place in the last two days. European Fisheries Ministers gave their opinion on the recently published European Commission’s Communication  related to fishing opportunities for 2018. Decisions on discard plans will be taken by both Parliament and European Council in autumn this year and again in 2018, whereas the final decision for 2018 Total Annual Catches will be decided this year in October for the Baltic Sea and in December for the North East Atlantic, respectively.

Seas At Risk and the Fisheries Secretariat requested Ministers in a letter and annex  to stop overfishing now and to gradually eliminate the wasteful practice of discarding to bring European fish stocks back to healthy levels.  With only two to three years left to achieve those key objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy, all European decision-makers and stakeholders involved in fisheries management need to step up their efforts. Despite early and repeated warnings from civil society, the measures adopted in the first years after the Common Fisheries Policy reform were insufficient. While the benefits of managing EU fish stocks more sustainably are clearly outlined in the Commission communication, much remains to be done to achieve a full implementation of the European legislation.