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World Fisheries Day: some FISH facts

Published: 21/11/2011

World Fisheries Day, 21 November, is celebrated around the world by fishing communities and a myriad of other stakeholders such as environmental groups and policy makers.  In the European Union, the Common Fisheries Policy is undergoing am important reform, and today should serve as an additional wake-up call to ensure, and push for, a transition towards sustainability in fisheries so we can continue enjoying this resource in the future. Here are some interesting fish facts to inspire further reflection.

FISH Facts:

- Overall, fisheries and aquaculture support the livelihoods of an estimated 540 million people, or eight percent of the world population. People have never eaten as much fish and more people than ever are employed in or depend on the sector (Source: FAO Media Centre, January 2011).

- More than 80 percent of the world’s fisheries are at risk from overfishing (Source: Oceana).

- Total catches in the EU in 2007 totalled 5 135 540 tonnes, making the EU the third largest fisheries producer in the world, after China and Peru. The leading fishing countries are Spain, Denmark, UK and France, which together account for half the catches.  (Source: CFP Reform Watch, org. text: European Commission, Facts and Figures on the Common Fisheries Policy, 2010).

- More than 60 percent of fisheries products consumed in the EU are now imported. (Source: CFP Reform Watch, org. text: European Commission Reflections on further reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. 2008).

- The North Sea has been one of the richest fishing grounds in the world: in 1995 it produced five per cent of total world fish landings.  Since then, catches have fallen from 3.5 million tonnes a year to less than 1.5 million tonnes in 2007. (Source: CFP Reform Watch, org. text: European Commission, Factsheets on the CFP. 2008).

- 93 percent of cod fished in the North Sea are fished before they reached the age of sexual maturity. A cod can live forty years or more if it has the chance to survive. (Source: CFP Reform Watch, org. text: European Commission, Green Paper on the Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. 2009).

- The total income generated by EU fisheries sector in 2005 was 10.9 billion euros. This is 0.1% of EU GDP. Most of the income is concentrated in a small number of coastal areas. (Source: CFP Reform Watch, org. text: European Commission, A diagnosis of the EU fisheries sector. 2010).

- The European Fisheries Fund (EFF) has a budget of €4.3 billion for 2007-2013. Funding is available for all sectors of the industry – sea and inland fishing, aquaculture (the farming of fish, shellfish and aquatic plants), and processing and marketing of fisheries products. Particular attention is given to fishing communities most affected by recent changes in the industry (European Commission, Fisheries).

- According to estimates, EU fisheries subsidies have been given to member states such as Sweden, Poland and Spain to the value of more than 27 000 euro per employee and year (2001-2006). (Source: CFP Reform Watch, org. text: Poseidon Aquatic Resource Management Ltd and Pew Environment Group, FIFG 2000–2006 Shadow Evaluation. March 2010).

- The status quo has failed to ensure that EU Member States meet their obligations to record the money trail that comes from the public purse. Moreover, the lack of transparency in subsidy allocation means that guesswork is required to know how much money has been spent and who has received funds (fishsubsidy.org report: ‘Eyes Wide Shut’).

- Of the around 400 000 people employed in EU fisheries sector, around 141,110  are employed in the fish catching sector; this is less than 0.1% of total employment in the EU. Spain, Greece and Italy account for 60% of employment in the catching sector. (Source: CFP Reform Watch, org. text: European Commission, Facts and Figures on the Common Fisheries Policy, 2010).

It is suitable to conclude in the words of Pamela Mace of the New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries, “We need to move much more rapidly towards rebuilding individual fish populations and restoring the ecosystems of which they are a part, if there is to be any hope for the long-term viability of fisheries and fishing communities” (Science Daily, July 2009).