EU report: Europe risks missing legal deadline to end overfishing

Published on April 12, 2019

Many stocks remain overfished and/or outside safe biological limits, and progress achieved until 2017 seems too slow to ensure that all stocks will be rebuilt and managed according to FMSY by 2020.”, which is the legal deadline set by the EU Common Fisheries Policy, CFP.  

This is one key conclusion of the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) report “Monitoring the performance of the Common Fisheries Policy”. The scientific expert group reports on progress in achieving MSY objectives in line with CFP”. The maximum sustainable yield (MSY) for a given fish stock means the highest possible annual catch that can be sustained over time, by keeping the stock at the level producing maximum growth.  

According to the report, 41% of the assessed stocks in the Northeast Atlantic were still subject to overfishing in 2017 (the most recent year for which this information is available), compared to 43% in 2016, and 37% of stocks were still outside safe biological limits (for those with sufficient data to assess stock health). Moreover, based on information for 2016, in the Mediterranean “only around 13% (6 stocks) are not overfished, the majority are overfished”.

In a reaction to the STECF report, NGOs have published a press release raising a red flag and calling on the EU to “end overfishing now or miss legal deadline”.  

“When the STECF experts say European Ministers and Governments are behind schedule on ensuring an end to overfishing, it’s not just time to listen, it’s time to act,” said Gonçalo Carvalho, Executive Coordinator at Sciaena. 

STECF also concludes that stocks from the Mediterranean & Black Seas remain in a very poor situation, although there is a slight improvement in terms of fishing pressure and stock biomass.  

The report also highlights the need to broaden the scope of the CFP monitoring to cover additional aspects not so far dealt with. In particular, there is a need to develop the CFP monitoring process to cover the Landing Obligation, wider ecosystem and socio-economic aspects in the analysis.  

The STECF was established by the European Commission in 1993 to facilitate the implementation of the CFP and the committee is made up of highly qualified scientific personnel who are consulted by the Commission in order to develop the CFP policy and also to evaluate the effectiveness of its implementation.