North & Baltic Seas overfishing costs €400 million this year | WWF

North & Baltic Seas overfishing costs €400 million this year

Posted on 21 November 2002
Cod catch on the deck of a deep sea fishing trawler.
Brussels, Belgium – The overexploitation of fish stocks is a major economic problem as well as an ecological problem according to a new report published today by WWF. 'The Economics of a tragedy at Sea' shows that, at a cautious estimate, overfishing of cod alone in the North Sea and Baltic Sea will lead to a loss of income around 400 million Euro this year. The average annual cod catch in the Baltic Sea 1977-97 was around 235,000 tonnes. Assuming a 30 per cent 'buffer value' to reflect a precautionary approach in setting a sustainable catch volume, one gets a long-term possible catch of 165,000 tonnes per year. The quota for 2002 is however 76,000 due to the low level of stock after years of overfishing. At current average cod prices, the difference between a sustainable catch volume and the allowed catch (the quota) represents a loss of around 160 million Euro this year. A similar calculation for North Sea cod gives a 'sustainable' catch of 140,000 tonnes a year. The difference between the sustainable catch and the actual landings for 2001 represents a loss of around 243 million Euro. And this is without the recommended ban on cod fishing! In fact, the authors claim that the sustainable catch volume is very conservative and that others assume a considerably higher potential permanent catch volume – which suggests losses caused by overfishing to be well above the 243 million Euro estimated in the study published today by WWF. 'The economics of a tragedy at sea' by Ralf Doring and Henning Holst concludes "overexploitation of fish stocks represents not only a major ecological problem, but a major economic problem as well, because low stocks mean the loss of catch possibilities." The report finishes "The arguments put forward stating that consistent stock protection measures represent a danger for fishing carry little weight. On the contrary; it is repeated decisions not to sufficiently reduce catch volumes that have produced today’s problems." The report calculates a loss of revenue of 400 million from the overfishing of just one fish species in two Seas. The total potential income lost from overfishing the 14 stocks in EU waters for which scientific advice recommends recovery plans, and the 12 other stocks acknowledged by the European Commission to be outside safe biological limits, must be enormous. In total, over 62 per cent of commercial fish stocks in the North East Atlantic, 75 per cent in the Baltic Sea and at least 65 per cent in the Mediterranean Sea are outside safe biological limits. "Europe’s failed fisheries policy is not just costing Europe a fortune in taxpayer subsidies" said Heike Vesper of WWF's Fisheries Campaign, "It is losing Europe’s economy millions of Euros in potential earnings." WWF is calling on the European Union to redirect taxpayer subsidies away from modernising and building new fishing boats, to reduce the size of Europe's overcapacity fishing fleet, to introduce a range of environmental and fish stock protection measures and to abandon annual quota setting in favour of long-term planning. For further information: Julian Scola WWF Fisheries Campaign Tel.: +32 2 743 8806, gsm +32 486 117394