Global ocean leaders urge Commissioner Karmenu Vella to end EU overfishing

Nine global ocean conservation leaders have urged European Fisheries Commissioner Karmenu Vella to use his “power, position and responsibility” to end destructive and wasteful EU overfishing, ahead of the 2020 Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) deadline.

In a letter received by  Commissioner Vella on 22 May, the nine ocean advocates acknowledged the challenges in overcoming the status quo, where many stocks continue to be fished above scientific advice.

The letter’s signatories warn that the EU’s reputation as a global fisheries leader on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) has generated an expectation that the EU will get its own house in order. Failure to end EU overfishing will undermine the success of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy.

“We strongly encourage you to seize the opportunity of the coming months to finally bring the destructive and wasteful act of EU overfishing to an end, in keeping with the CFP deadline,” the letter states.

It is signed by Enric Sala of the National Geographic Society, Rashid Sumaila of UBC Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, Torsten Thiele of the Global Ocean Trust, Ayana Elizabeth Johnson of Ocean Collectiv, Pascal Lamy of the Jacques Delors Institute, Kristina Gjerde of the IUCN Global Marine and Polar Program, Kristian Parker of the Oak Foundation, Jane Lubchenco of Oregon State University and photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand.

“Battling both the short term interests and the lack of political will across several member states has delayed ending overfishing of EU stocks. Where science-based fishing limits have been set, healthier fish stocks have flourished, underscoring the power of reform,” the signatories say.

They added that a recent analysis showed that in December 2017, contrary to the goals of the reform, 57 EU fishing limits were set above scientific levels.

“With the 2020 deadline to end overfishing coming up fast, EU fisheries ministers are sailing perilously close to the wind,” said Rebecca Hubbard, Our Fish Programme Director. “Instead of safely reaching sustainable 2020 destination, the EU is in danger of floundering far from shore, thanks to myopic, short-term decision-making that favours the demands of big fishing industry players, over the long term health of fisheries”.

In 2017, an update of the World Bank’s Sunken Billions report estimated that better management of global fisheries would unlock $83 (€70) billion in additional revenues worldwide.

In the EU, millions of tonnes of fish have been discarded at sea, and over 40% of Atlantic fish stocks and over 90% of Mediterranean stocks are now overfished.

Researchers estimate that by ending overfishing, the EU could increase the amount of fish caught by up to 2 million tonnes per year, which could deliver an increase in net profits in the fishing and processing sectors by €965 million/year and an extra 92,000 jobs.


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