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EU floats plan to recover fish stocks but sinks on fleet reductions

13 July 2011
by greenpeace -- last modified 13 July 2011

The European Commission today launched a crucial plan for EU fisheries reform aiming to restore fish populations in just four years. But the current plan is unlikely to deliver its ambitious target with almost no concrete measures to reduce the size of the fishing fleet to counter the decline in stocks, said Greenpeace.


The Commission proposal, part of a fundamental reform of the EU's common fisheries policy (CFP), comes as scientists warn that many fish species could be commercially extinct in only a few years.

The Commission aims to achieve sustainable fishing by 2015, with fishermen eventually only fishing what the sea can naturally replace. To drive down overfishing, the Commission proposes a market scheme allowing larger industrial fishing vessels to trade unclaimed fish quotas. But the plan fails to set a cap on quotas (in line with scientific recommendations) or a target to ease the pressure on fish stocks by reducing the size of the bloated European fleet. In 2008, the Commission recognised that the European fishing fleet was capable of catching two to three times more than dwindling fish populations could naturally sustain.

Greenpeace EU fisheries policy adviser Saskia Richartz said: "Making sure fish stocks recover before they're wiped out by overfishing makes a lot of sense. Anyone will tell you that more fish means more business for fishermen and a healthier sea. But right now it's hard to see how the EU wants to get there. Trading around fishing quotas won't stop overfishing, especially without a clear pathway to bring the fleet size in line with how much fish is left in the sea."

The Commission also wants to tackle the problem of discards, the wasteful practice of throwing unprofitable dead fish overboard. "Discards are a disgrace. The best way to tackle the problem is to stop overfishing, slim down the fishing fleet and support more sustainable and selective fishing that stops unwanted fish from being caught in the first place," Richartz added.

The reform of the CFP will be concluded at the earliest in January 2013, after approval by the European Parliament and EU countries. Major fishing nations like Spain, which has received half of the EU's fisheries subsidies to prop up its fleet, are expected to oppose any plans to limit fishing in the short term in order to improve catches and revenues for fishermen in the future.

The EU is the world's third largest fishing power, after China and Peru. The reach of its industrial fishing vessels is increasingly global, as fish stocks nearer Europe crash. The European Commission estimated in May that 62% of fish stocks are overfished in the Atlantic and 82% in the Mediterranean. A report by the World Bank in 2009 calculated that overfishing costs €32 billion in lost revenue and benefits worldwide every year.

Greenpeace uses non-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems and to drive solutions for a green and peaceful future. Greenpeace is independently funded and does not accept donations from governments, the EU, corporations or political parties.

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