At the June Fisheries Council meeting, EU Fisheries Ministers outrageously backed out of their international commitment to end overfishing by 2015 and chose to oppose the Commission’s proposals that would result in more sustainable fisheries.

At the June Fisheries Council meeting, EU Fisheries Ministers outrageously backed out of their international commitment to end overfishing by 2015 and chose to oppose the Commission’s proposals that would result in more sustainable fisheries.

While paying lip service to sustainability concerns, the Fisheries Ministers failed to stick to their commitment to exploit all fish stocks at Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) by 2015. Instead, they want to “assess this objective on a case by case basis”.

These conclusions directly contradict what was agreed amongst Environment Ministers only last week, when they met to discuss the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy and encouragingly endorsed a commitment to achieve MSY by 2015.

Furthermore, Fisheries Ministers did not support the Commission’s intention to apply a 25% reduction of Total Allowable Catches (TACs) as a matter of precaution for stocks for which there is no scientific advice or only poor information.
Lack of stock assessment and clear scientific advice has in the past served as an argument for maintaining or even increasing catches. The proposed precautionary 25% reduction would have encouraged Member States to fulfill their Community obligations to collect and make available much needed data and would have helped avoiding the over exploitation of fish stocks we do not know enough about.

By rejecting the Commission’s approach, the Ministers have made a mockery of the precautionary principle, enshrined as one of the guiding principles in the EU Treaty. They have also paved the way for maintaining Europe’s disgraceful track record in terms of fish stock assessments and management: the EU performs the worst among developed nations when it comes to fish stock assessments – for two thirds of the stocks there simply is no scientific advice available, and quotas are set blindly or stocks remain unmanaged.

The discussions amongst the Fisheries Ministers do not bode well for the negotiations later this year on the fishing opportunities for 2012, nor for the ongoing reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.

The European Commission is opening up the debate on how to manage fish stocks to the public, by means of an online consultation. It is high time that European citizens let their elected representatives know that they do not want public resources be so grossly mismanaged.

The Council press release

 
 

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