Positions & Papers

EU Fisheries Council 16-17 December. Northeast Atlantic fishing opportunities for 2020 – Joint NGO recommendations

October 24, 2019

In our joint recommendations to the EU Fisheries Council, The Fisheries Secretariat along with The Pew Charitable Trusts, Seas At Risk, Oceana, ClientEarth, and Our Fish have provided concrete policy proposals ahead of the December Council at which fishing limits or TACs will be set for over 100 stocks in the North Sea and Northeast Atlantic.

The MSY obligation, all stocks managed with a sustainable fishing mortality (under Fmsy) in order to achieve a sustainable biomass (Bmsy) by 2020, is due to be fully implemented at this Council meeting. However, there is  serious threat of the legal requirement not being met.

We provide an overview of "progress in implementing the CFP", referencing the EU body, the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee on Fisheries (STECF), which clearly show that implementing of sustainable fishing limits has slowed in recent years.

Further, we provide recommendations for setting TACs in line with the CFP requirements, the implementation of the Landing Obligation, and improving the transparency and accountability of the TAC setting process, in line with the EU Ombudsman investigation into the Council.

Finally, we reference the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC), which predicts severe declines in European fisheries production and highlights the need to alleviate all other stressors on ocean ecosystems, specifically, ending overfishing to help restore fish populations and increase ocean resilience. "In light of this clear call to climate action, all fishing limits should at the very least not exceed the best available scientific advice and preferably be even more precautionary in light of diverse threats and uncertainty."

Letter to Baltic Ministers on Council TAC deliberations for 2020

October 10, 2019

Over 80 NGOs have written to ministers ahead of the October fisheries council meeting at which fishing limits will be set for next year. The letter states that "We welcome the progress that has been made in increasing the number of catch limits set in line with scientific advice. Nevertheless, we remain very concerned that, according to the latest report from the EU’s Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF), more than 40%of the North-East Atlantic stocks are still subject to overfishing. Furthermore, we note with serious concern that the rate of progress toward meeting the requirement to end overfishing has slowed in the last few years, making additional and urgent efforts necessary to restore stocks to healthy levels." In addition, "we would welcome an unequivocal commitment from you that you will do your utmost to meet the Article 2(2) requirements of the CFP...We urge you to strongly and openly oppose recommendations that do not follow the scientific advice of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and the CFP Article 2(2) objective."

Transparency: A question to the incoming Finnish presidency of Baltfish

October 2, 2019

In a letter to the incoming Finnish presidency of Baltfish, 15 organisations have called for improvements to transparency and access to documents and positions taken by member states. "Transparency has been part of the work programme and agenda during the previous Swedish, Danish, German and Polish Presidencies and a successful outcome has yet to be reached. We call on the Finnish Presidency to end this long running saga and fulfil the transparency requirements of the European Union." These 15 organisations comprise a broad coalition of environmental organisations, segments of the fishing industry, as well as organisations representing anglers and recreational fishermen.

The letter states: "Our transparency request to Baltfish is for timely access to:
  • Draft texts being proposed;
  • Positions taken by national members;
  • Meeting notes or minutes;
  • And for all documents to be publicly available online."
The letter notes that these criteria are within the Baltfish memorandum of understanding, adopted in December 2013, and is also in line with the Aarhus Convention to which the EU and its Member States are contracting parties. Further, the letter references two inquires launched by the European Ombudsman on transparency within EU bodies with regard to fisheries policy. In case OI/2/2017/TE the Ombudsman found that there was maladministration with regard to “access to documents relating to Council preparatory bodies when discussing draft EU legislative acts”. In her recommendations, she insisted on the need to “systematically record the identities of Member States expressing positions in preparatory bodies.”

An assessment of the effectiveness of the Baltic Sea MAP

September 24, 2019

Fit for purpose? An assessment of the effectiveness of the BSMAP is a joint analysis of the Baltic Sea Multiannual Management Plan (BSMAP) by Pew Charitable Trusts, Birdlife International, WWF, FishSec and Oceana. We conclude that the BSMAP has failed to improve fisheries management in the Baltic Sea. The state of the Baltic ecosystem and its fish stocks speaks for itself. In place since July 2016, the BSMAP, was the first management plan adopted by the EU after the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy in 2013. Having been in place for three years it is being evaluated by the European Commission and has had a stakeholder consultation. We conclude that the BSMAP has failed to improve fisheries management in the Baltic Sea and recommend that MAPs and the CFP definine a maximum level of fishing mortality in future. The state of the Baltic ecosystem, its fish stocks and the decision-making process speaks for itself.

In summary:
  • MAPs were introduced in the CFP to address three specific challenges: the need for longer-term (multiannual) management geared towards achieving the CFP’s objectives; the need to take into account regional and ecosystem specificities; and the desire to bring decision-making closer to the regions in question.
  • The Baltic MAP was instrumentalised to serve other purposes, key among which was the facilitation of the implementation of the LO and providing decision-makers with flexibility regarding fisheries management – not only in the Baltic region, but first and foremost in other European seas.
  • The flawed design of the Baltic MAP led to management decisions and fishing practices that have failed to fulfill the intent of the CFP and achieve the MSFD’s Good Environmental Status target. The intended regionalisation elements have failed to ensure the MAP delivers on the specific needs of the Baltic in a timely manner, and lastly the MAP has failed to help deliver TACs in line with MSY and scientific advice.

Joint NGO response to the Commission consultation on the setting of fishing opportunities for 2020 under the CFP

August 21, 2019

In response to the Commission Communication on fishing opportunities for 2020, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Oceana, ClientEarth, Seas At Risk, FishSec and Our Fish have provided a joint response.

We urge the Commission to ensure that the TACs proposed and set for 2020 meet the objectives and requirements of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), ensure that the Landing Obligation (LO) is effectively implemented, and commit to a process of proposing and setting fishing opportunities that is transparent to citizens and civil society organisations.

In our recommendations to the Commission we call on them to follow scientific advie in all of its TAC proposals for 2020, for both target and bycatch stocks. Moreover, we highlight the need for correct implementation of the LO and provide seven policy improvements. In addition, we call on the Commission to improve the transparency and accountability of the TAC setting process.

DSCC Position Statement on Deep Seabed Mining

July 19, 2019

DSCC-Position-Statement-on-Deep-Seabed-Mining_July2019The Position Statement explains the overarching goals of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) regarding Deep Seabed Mining. FishSec is a member of the DSCC. The coalition is made up of more than 80 non-government organizations, fishers organizations and law and policy institutes working together to protect vulnerable deep-sea ecosystems. We aim to substantially reduce the greatest threats to life in the deep sea and to safeguard the long-term health, integrity and resilience of deep-sea ecosystems. The main focus is on ensuring the sustainability of deep-sea fisheries and addressing the potential threat of deep-sea mining. Read the statement here.

Joint NGO letter to new Parliament: “EU needs committed and ambitious MEPs to save our ocean”

July 15, 2019

In a letter to newly elected MEPs serving in the European Parliament for the next five years, environmental organisations BirdLife, ClientEarth, The Fisheries Secretariat, New Economics Foundation, Oceana, Seas At Risk, and WWF called on politicians to deliver on 8 concrete EU commitments that protect marine life, habitats and biodiversity. The letter highlights that "the EU already has the laws, obligations and commitments. Now we call on you to move from words to actions. We count on your determination in this challenge."

These commitments include "4. Fully implement the Common Fisheries Policy. 5. Eliminate Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and strengthen fisheries control and enforcement; introduce fully documented fisheries. 6. Save the Mediterranean - the most overfished sea of the world - by reducing the excessive fishing effort, minimizing fishing impacts on vulnerable species and habitats and substantially improving the culture of compliance in the region."

Joint NGO letter to European Commission – urgent action needed to stop cetacean bycatch

July 10, 2019

A coalition of 27 NGOs have written to the European Commission calling on them to implement emergency measures in order to protect cetaceans, such as dolphins and porpoises, killed and captured during unselective fishing operations. These bycatch killings contravene the EU Habitats Directive and the Common Fisheries Policy which aim to conserve biodiversity and ensure that fishing has a minimal impact on non-target species. The letter states: "Bycatch is the greatest threat to the conservation of cetaceans, globally and in European waters. Commercial fishing is the last human activity targeting wildlife on a grand scale where the killing of other large sapient wildlife occurs on such a regular basis.

Article 12 of the Habitats Directive mandates that Member States establish a system of strict protection for cetaceans prohibiting all forms of deliberate capture or killing of specimens of these species in the wild and that conservation measures are taken to ensure that bycatch does not have a significant negative impact on these species. The Habitats Directive also mandates that Member States take appropriate steps to avoid the disturbance of the cetacean species for which Natura 2000 areas have been designated. To date, however, Member States have failed both to implement and enforce a general system of measures to reduce bycatch and to manage cetaceans’ Natura 2000 sites to make them safe spaces contributing to restoring these populations to favourable conservation status. As a result, cetacean populations in Europe are under great stress."

Joint NGO letter to MEPs: EU needs committed and ambitious MEPs to save our ocean

July 10, 2019

In a letter to the newly elected Members on European Parliament the environmental organisations BirdLife, ClientEarth, The Fisheries Secretariat, New Economics Foundation, Oceana, Seas At Risk, and WWF lists concrete EU commitments and crucial actions in the next five years, i.e their term in the Parliament, to save our oceans.

Joint NGO recommendations on Baltic Sea fishing opportunities for 2020

June 10, 2019

In October 2019, EU fisheries ministers will agree on fishing opportunities in the Baltic Sea for 2020. This will be the final Council meeting where fisheries ministers have the opportunity to end overfishing of Baltic Sea species by 2020, as is legally required by the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

We urge the European Commission (EC) to propose, and the Council to agree on, Total Allowable Catches (TACs) in accordance with the following recommendations:
  • Set TACs not exceeding scientifically advised levels based on the Maximum Sustainable Yield(MSY) approach for all stocks for which MSY-based reference points are available.
  • Where MSY-based reference points are not available, to not exceed the precautionary approach catch limits advised by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES).
  • Set TACs not exceeding the FMSY point value specified in the Baltic Multi-Annual Plan (MAP), following the ICES MSY Advice Rule when spawning stock biomass (SBB) is below the MSY Btrigger reference point.
  • Take into account the lack of implementation of the Landing Obligation (LO) when setting TACs, and ensure that TACs are respected by increasing monitoring and control of the LO.
Read the NGO briefing here.