Message to EU Leaders: ending overfishing IS climate action! Responding to an urgent appeal from EU Citizens, five Ocean Avengers – lead by Poseidon, God of the Sea, swooped on Brussels this morning to deliver an urgent ultimatum to heads of state attending an EU Council meeting: “Take emergency climate action now! Instruct your fisheries ministers to end overfishing at next week’s EU AGRIFISH Council Meeting”.
The Ocean Avengers converged on the EU Council building in the Brussels EU quarter, where they delivered over 1,000 personal messages from EU citizens, and a petition with over 470,000 signatures calling for an end to overfishing, to Ms Sarah Nelen, Deputy Head of Cabinet for EU Commission Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans, and to Ms Riitta Rahkonen, representative from the Finnish Presidency of the EU Council, on behalf of European citizens and a coalition of environmental NGOs – Our Fish, Seas at Risk, Fisheries Secretariat, ClientEarth and Sciaena.
“Prime ministers, protect our ocean and climate: end overfishing!,” roared Poseidon. “Before Monday’s AGRIFISH meeting, summon your fisheries ministers and tell them this: Ending overfishing will protect marine biodiversity and strengthen the ocean’s resilience against climate change, so that marine life and human life can flourish. Tell your fisheries ministers that it is their job to deliver on this commitment on behalf of all EU citizens!”
“End overfishing – EU citizens demand it!,” said Citizen Fish, an everyday kid, powered by the energy of millions of EU citizens demanding healthy oceans – who spun into Brussels on a skateboard. “Nearly a decade ago, people across the EU called for an end to overfishing, and eventually you listened. But you just changed the fishing rules, then didn’t bother following them up. What kind of message are you sending to us kids? We want thriving oceans and a livable planet, not empty promises!”
“The Common Fisheries Policy is an EU law which must be obeyed – and it demands sustainable fishing limits by 2020,” said Lady Justice – she who delivers justice for all life on Earth. “The 2020 deadline to end overfishing is not an aspirational deadline to be missed and forgotten about – breaking the law has serious consequences. Prime Ministers must hold their fisheries ministers to account – or risk having them become outlaws!”
“Lady Justice is right! EU Laws say that fishing limits must be kept within what scientists advise – anything else is just overfishing,” said Captain Science, the planet’s smartest nerd. “Luckily, following the science is simple – but your fisheries ministers are seemingly incapable of comprehending it. Prime Ministers – please explain to your colleagues that the only way out of this mess is to heed scientific advice and end overfishing!”
“EU governments promise they will fight climate change and work to deal with the impacts of the climate crisis,” said the brooding giant Climate X – the embodiment of the interplay between weather, the atmosphere and the ocean, as enraged bolts of lightning burst from his clenched fists. “So why are rogue fisheries ministers allowed to run riot, overfishing and destroying the ocean and the climate? I am extremely unhappy about this. In fact, I’m getting angry.”
EU Fisheries ministers are being called on to end overfishing to meet international and EU obligations when they set annual fishing limits for 2020 during the AGRIFISH Council meeting on December 16th and 17th. Under the reformed Common Fisheries Policy, EU fisheries ministers committed to end overfishing by 2015, or by 2020 at the latest, and that deadline is now here . Five non-governmental organisations, Our Fish, Seas at Risk, ClientEarth, Fishsec and Sciaena have delivered a six-point plan titled Why EU Prime Ministers Must Act to End Overfishing This Week (see below) .
A recent study, co-authored by Dr Rashid Sumaila, Professor and Director of the Fisheries Economics Research Unit at the University of British Columbia’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries demonstrates that ending destructive overfishing is essential to build ocean resilience and can mitigate the impacts of climate change. 
On Friday 6th December, a group of ocean experts, including the UN Special Envoy for the Ocean Peter Thomson and Dr Sumaila called for immediate action by governments worldwide to end overfishing in order to mitigate the impacts of climate change on the world’s oceans .
On 19th November, the EU Council adopted Conclusions on Oceans and Seas, highlighting that climate change is a direct and existential threat to life in the ocean and that “member states unanimously stress the need for immediate action against increasing threats on our oceans, seas and coastal areas.” 
- Basic photo and video will be available by 0830-0900 – more photo and video will be available by mid-morning
- The graphics – including the Ocean Avengers poster by artist Nye Wright – which appeared in the print edition of today’s issue of Politico is also available.
 EU 2013. Common Fisheries Policy. REGULATION (EU) No 1380/2013 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 11 December 2013 on the Common Fisheries Policy, amending Council Regulations (EC) No 1954/2003 and (EC) No 1224/2009 and repealing Council Regulations (EC) No 2371/2002 and (EC) No 639/2004 and Council Decision 2004/585/EC
 Why EU Prime Ministers Must Act to End Overfishing This Week
In 2013, after decades of overfishing and destructive fishing practices led to empty seas, vanishing jobs and plummeting profits, millions of citizens demanded that EU lawmakers deliver an ambitious reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). This new CFP would bring back sustainable, thriving ocean ecosystems that could secure the future for the next generation of Europeans. While not perfect, it put in place key objectives, including a legal obligation to end overfishing by 2020 – at the latest. So far, EU fisheries ministers have failed to make substantive progress on implementing the CFP. For example, around 40% of North East Atlantic fish stocks are still overfished.
To end overfishing – in accordance with EU laws, annual fishing limits must be set in line with scientific advice. The EU receives this advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) – yet does not always follow it. It’s as simple as it sounds – following scientific advice would not only rebuild fish populations, it would end the ‘boom and bust’ cycle of current management, which has resulted in certifications being removed for fish like North Sea cod. The EU Council of AGRIFISH Ministers, which has the ultimate say in setting fishing quotas, has exceeded scientific advice in six out of every ten cases since the CFP reform in 2013.
Our ocean is sick. But fishing quotas – if properly used – can allow fish populations to recover, and help restore ocean health. This is especially crucial when many EU fish populations are at a fraction of historical levels. When quotas follow scientific advice, research shows that increases in abundance follow. But the ocean is a diverse ecosystem, not a farmland with individual crops, so we must manage fish populations with an ‘ecosystem-based approach’. This means that even if one or two commercial fish stocks are very profitable, they should not be exploited to the detriment of other fish populations or the overall ecosystem.
EU fisheries ministers have spent six years delaying an end to overfishing – and this comes at a cost. If we had more abundant fish populations, fewer fishing trips would be required – lowering costs – as fish become easier to catch. More abundant fish populations also mean that future harvests would be larger than current catches – increasing revenues – like interest payments on a larger bank account. If North East Atlantic fish populations were rebuilt, they could deliver an estimated €4.64 billion/year rather than just €0.1 billion, and generate an extra 20,000 jobs. Ending overfishing is common sense economics.
Despite all the benefits of ending overfishing, continued political delay from Fisheries Ministers has made things worse, so some big cuts to fishing quotas are needed this year. While the citizen, science, health and economic cases for ending overfishing, all demonstrate a clear ‘should’, the legal status of the Common Fisheries Policy requires sustainable fishing limits in 2020 as a ‘must’. The Common Fisheries Policy deadline is not an aspirational deadline to be missed and forgotten – it is the law. EU citizens have to follow laws, why not EU Fisheries Ministers?
Ending overfishing is climate action. The ocean regulates the climate, absorbs CO2, gives us every second breath, and has absorbed over 90% of excess global heating – we need our ocean to be healthy if we are to contend with climate change. Overfishing is one of the greatest pressures on the ocean; rebuilding fish populations would decrease CO2 pollution, increase carbon capture, restore the marine food web, and create a more resilient ocean ecosystem. But if ending overfishing is a fundamental and achievable emergency climate action, why are EU fisheries ministers undermining the work being carried out by their own governments to mitigate the impacts of the climate crisis?
The above information also appears on https://www.climateocean.com – and on today’s Politico newspaper in Brussels.
Posted on: 12 December 2019