The Beacon

Oceana CEO: Historic win for Europe's Fisheries

Bottom trawlers embark from Roses, Spain in Catalonia. ©Oceana/Juan Cuetos

I just received some tremendous news out of Europe.

After almost two years of debate, the European Parliament has voted to overhaul the management of its fisheries, the fifth largest in the world.  

The European fleet includes tens of thousands of vessels and catches 4.5 percent of the total world catch by weight, so the fact that Europe is on its way to becoming a leader in fisheries reform is incredibly good news for our oceans.

The vote in the Parliament makes it increasingly likely that a dramatic reform of Europe’s overarching fishing policy, the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), will become law. The new CFP will ensure that fish stocks are caught at sustainable levels, known as the Maximum Sustainable Yield, by 2015. It will also, remarkably, put an end to the wasteful practice of discards, put Europe on a path to low-impact fishing, and set up a network of fish stock recovery areas.

Time and time again, we’ve seen that doing these three things – implementing science-based quotas, protecting habitat and limiting bycatch – can dramatically increase the amount of fish in the water.

Here are some of the key amendments included in the comprehensive reform policy:

  • follow scientific advice and adopt the precautionary principle in setting annual fishing quotas,
  • establish transparency with regards to data and fishing opportunities,
  • establish strong definitions for fishing protected areas and low impact fisheries,
  • support the establishment of fish stock recovery areas,
  • compliance with environmental legislation that requires good environmental status of marine waters by 2020,
  • require Member States to comply with CFP regulations in order to be eligible for subsidies.

This enormous win wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of Oceana and other ocean conservation advocates. Oceana and our allies have been campaigning for this reform for years in the European Union, one of the most overfished regions in the world. As I reported to you several weeks ago, the majority of the EU’s fish stocks that have been scientifically-assessed have been found to be overfished, with some species nearing extinction.

The EU Parliament will soon begin negotiations with the Council of Fisheries ministers to reach a final agreement on the details of the reform by June.

One thing is for sure already – 2013 is off to a promising start for the oceans.

Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana


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