Fisheries Committee MEPs fail in legal obligations to fight overfishing
Today the European Parliament turned a blind eye to its legal obligation to achieve sustainable fisheries in European seas by 2020 as required by the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), placing both fisheries industries and the health of marine life in grave jeopardy.
The European Parliament's Committee on Fisheries (PECH Committee) has voted on two fisheries multiannual management plans (MAPs): for the Adriatic Sea (covering waters in Italy, Croatia and Slovenia) and the Western Waters (northeast Atlantic Ocean from Ireland to Portugal). The plans were originally proposed to provide key, long-term governance tools for the sustainable management of fish stocks and to reduce the impacts of fishing activities on the marine environment at regional levels. Instead, MEPs have signaled that these plans are wasted paper, pushing a business-as-usual scenario in waters already facing species collapse.
European seas remain in crisis with over 90% of assessed fish stocks in the Mediterranean Sea and over 40% in the Western Atlantic Ocean overexploited, openly demonstrating how little decision-makers and national governments have done to comply with their legal obligations to achieve sustainable fisheries.
Samantha Burgess, Head of Marine Policy at WWF European Policy Office said: “Today’s votes represent a failure to reverse the crisis of overexploitation in European seas and suggest that MEPs are more strongly influenced by industry short-term bottom lines than the scientific advice to guarantee sustainability of fish populations, reduce the negative impacts of fishing on the environment and deliver positive socio-economic gains to these regions. The upcoming plenary vote must show significantly more determination to stand by the EU’s commitment to restore and sustain European seas by 2020.”
In the case of the Adriatic MAP, MEPs rejected the introduction of a new, more efficient management regime which would have brought innovative approaches to fisheries management and benefited the ecological and socio-economic fate of the region. The PECH Committee voted to reduce catches of sardines and anchovies by only 4% annually between 2020 and 2022. This is far from the scientific recommendation to immediately reduce catches of these species by 10% and 25% respectively, to avoid a total collapse of these vital populations and achieve sustainability. In addition, the plan does not introduce a single measure to limit the impacts of fishing activities in the marine environment. Today’s position fails to grasp the immediacy needed to address the region’s unacceptable level of overfishing and critical state, and is a direct violation of the 2020 deadline to achieve sustainable fishing in all European seas.
MEPs voted similarly in the case of the Western Waters MAP, postponing the deadline to achieve sustainable fishing from 2020 to 2023. In so doing, the PECH Committee has missed a critical opportunity for fisheries sustainability and profitability, and prolonged the recovery of species in a region where 41% of assessed stocks are overfished. Not meeting the 2020 deadline will be catastrophic to both Western Waters marine life and to the economies that depend on its health.
Disappointingly, the regional approach of the CFP continues to prove inadequate to deliver sustainability of fisheries for either fish populations or to the communities which depend on them, as EU-level decision makers fail to adequately consider local issues and their evidence base in the face of international industry’s vested interests.
MEPs must reverse today’s positions in in their plenary vote, taking place later this autumn. This could be the last chance to adopt the ambitious measures required to deliver sustainability of our seas, with robust fishing industries and healthy fish populations.
Marine Communications Officer
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