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 Europeâ€™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, weâ€™ve seen that doing these three things â€“ implementing science-based quotas, protecting habitat and limiting bycatch â€“ 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 wouldnâ€™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 EUâ€™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 â€“ 2013 is off to a promising start for the oceans.
Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana
Today the Fisheries Committee of the EU parliament voted to radically reform its fisheries management policies, for the better. After 18 months of negotiations the body voted to put in place new measures that would effectively end overfishing and greatly improve the way the EU manages its fisheries, the third largest in the world.
This marks a true turning point for the EU, one of the poorest managed, most overfished regions in the world. In recent years, the majority of its scientifically-assessed fisheries have been found to be overexploited, which is no surprise given that it is also home to a heavily subsidized and extremely powerful fishing industry that is estimated to be two to three times larger than what sustainable fishing limits would allow.
Among the new reforms to the law that governs fisheries in the EU, what is known as the Common Fisheries Policy, Oceana is especially excited about the following changes:
- An obligation to set catch limits above maximum sustainable yield levels by 2015, in order for stocks to recover by 2020
- A clear ban on discards with proceeds from the landing of unwanted catches reverted to a fund to be used for data collection and control
- An obligation for the fishing industry to contribute to the costs of data collection and control
- A funding freeze to fishers that do not comply with fishing rules, as well as a funding freeze to Member States that do not achieve the objectives set in EU fishing legislation
- An obligation to adjust fishing capacity to reflect the new catch limits and a thorough assessment of the fishing capacity of Member States
- The creation of a network of fish stock recovery areas
Executive Director of Oceana in Europe Xavier Pastor was exultant after the vote, saying:
â€śToday, we, EU citizens, have broken the EU governmentsâ€™ tradition of overexploiting fisheries resources and destroying our natural marine heritage in favour of short-term interests that have put the industry in decline. Today, we have a first hopeful look towards a future where fish stocks are sustainably managed and coastal communitiesâ€™ livelihoods are guaranteed by plentiful seas.â€ť
Oceana has been fighting for these changes for years and we are nearing the finish line. The new reforms now go to a vote before the entire European Parliament early next year. Learn more about the great work our European office is doing.
You might have missed it, but over Thanksgiving Oceana won some major victories. One that we are especially excited about was the vote by the European Parliament to impose a strict ban on shark finning. While this ban has technically been in place since 2003 the new vote closes a crucial loophole by requiring all vessels in EU waters, as well as all EU vessels around the world, to bring their sharks to shore fins attached.
This is a major victory for Oceana, which has been pushing for the strict ban for years. It is also an especially big victory for sharks. The EU is the largest exporter of shark fins to China and Hong Kong in the world. Fishing the Atlantic, Indian, Mediterranean, and Pacific Oceans it has become the worldâ€™s top fisher of sharks.
The practice of shark finning is just as brutal as it sounds. Once captured, a shark is brought on board and its fins are sliced off. The finless shark is then discarded in the ocean, where it is left to struggle and die. Up to 70 million sharks are killed every year, mostly to serve the market for the Chinese status symbol delicacy, shark-fin soup. Sharks are slow-growing, late-maturing, long-lived and give birth to few young, making them unable to cope with such high levels of exploitation.
By requiring the sharks to be brought on board fins attached fishermen are unable to stockpile huge numbers of fins in their holds and the number of sharks that can be killed on any one trip is dramatically curtailed.
This tragic front page report from the International Herald Tribune shows that fishing subsidies have not only devastating effects on fish, but on the fishermen who catch them as well. In boom times, EU fishing subsidies encouraged Spanish fishermen to upgrade to larger, more destructive vessels, only to find their fishing quotas drastically reduced once the fish stocks were depleted.
Many fishermen now find themselves dependent on the government subsidies which are propping up an unprofitable industry that, in the EU, is two to three times larger than what sustainable limits allow. As the article says:
â€śThe impact has devastated much of Spainâ€™s coastal economy. It has also generated intensifying criticism of European Union policies that, environmental groups and experts say, have increased fishing communitiesâ€™ dependency on subsidies to make up for the decline in both revenues and fish populations, even as the bloc continues to pay generous subsidies to scrap older vessels to upgrade Europeâ€™s fleet. The new boats are typically bigger and more powerful, adding pressure on declining fish populations.â€ť
The article also references an Oceana study published last year that outlines the insanity of the European Unionâ€™s fishing subsidy policies. According to that study 13 of the 27 EU countries receive subsidies larger than the value of their catch.
A separate report in 2010, A bottom-up re-estimation of global fisheries subsidies, estimated that, worldwide, $16 billion in annual fishing subsidies directly promoted overfishing. The report stated, â€śThe role of subsidies to the issue of overcapacity and overfishing cannot be sufficiently emphasized.â€ť
Help Oceana fight to end these destructive and counterproductive subsidies and to restore the abundance of the oceans.
Today we moved closer to a complete ban on shark finning in the European Union!
The Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament voted in Brussels today to support a strict ban on shark finning, both in European Union waters and on EU ships worldwide. The European Union contains several major shark fishing nations, responsible for 14% of all reported shark catches worldwide.
This new policy would close loopholes in EUâ€™s existing shark finning policy, which allowed some vessels to remove fins at sea. It will have to be approved by the rest of the Parliament before it can go into effect.
Shark finning is a cruel and wasteful practice where fishers cut off a sharkâ€™s fins, often while it is still alive, and then toss the rest of the shark overboard to die. Sharks everywhere are facing strong fishing pressures, with many species now classified as threatened or endangered. When only fins are collected, more sharks can be caught, and the species may not be identifiable on-shore, putting threatened and endangered sharks at more risk.
The Shark Conservation Act of 2010 made shark finning illegal in US waters, requiring fishers to bring the entire shark to shore. In the EU, shark finning has technically been prohibited since 2003, but the policy voted on today will remove an exemption that allowed some vessels to continue removing fins on-board and made enforcement of the ban difficult.
Put together, EU countries form the largest shark fishing entity in the world, and we are thrilled that the Parliament is taking this important step to protect sharks in their waters, after several years of campaigning by Oceana's team in Europe. â€śThe vote of the Fisheries Committee sends a strong message to the wider Parliament: the EU, which catches the largest share of sharks worldwide, must set a global example when it comes to policy on shark finning,â€ť says Xavier Pastor, Executive Direction of Oceana Europe.
Weâ€™re pleased to announce that the Spanish government has put an end to proposed oil industry development that would have threatened the DoĂ±ana National Park, a World Heritage Site, after campaigning by Oceana and our allies.
Plans to build an oil refinery in the Gulf of Cadiz, not far from DoĂ±ana, would have led to higher ship traffic in the area and a higher risk of oil spills or accidents during the tankersâ€™ unloading operations. Oceana is currently working to create a Marine Protected Area in this section of the Gulf of Cadiz, which would be linked to the National Park.
DoĂ±ana National Park was established in 1993 and named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. Its marshes, streams, and sand dunes are home to plants and animals found almost nowhere else in the world.
Many migratory birds spend their winters in the park lands, and endangered species like the Spanish imperial eagle and the Iberian lynx (one of the worldâ€™s most endangered cat species) call this area home. In the marshes of DoĂ±ana National Park, you can also find birds like the Avocet and the Purple Heron, both of which depend on the sensitive estuary habitats.
Increased oil tanker traffic could have potentially damaged the already vulnerable habitats of these animals.
Oceana identified the threats posed by the construction of this oil refinery in 2005, and has been campaigning against it with other conservationist groups. Oceana Europe is now calling on the Spanish government to enact similar protections for other marine protected areas.
Sharks and rays in the Mediterranean have something to be happy about this weekâ€”10 species now have special protections under the Barcelona Convention.
These 10 speciesâ€”including hammerheads and shortfin makosâ€”have suffered significant population losses. Shark and ray numbers have declined and some species are nowhere to be seen in areas where they were once common.
Todayâ€™s decision allows the EU to formalize protection for these important predators. Itâ€™s a step in the right direction for the EU, which recently delayed measures that would have limited overfishing in European waters.
â€śThese vulnerable sharks and rays have been granted the legal protection that they urgently require,â€ť according to Ricardo Aguilar, Director of Research at Oceana Europe. Now that the legal protections are in place, the next step will depend on locating where the protected species remain in the Mediterranean, and implementing strict protection measures in those areas.
Sharks and rays are some of the oldest fish in the oceanâ€”the oldest shark relative is estimated to be up to 450 million years old. And now some species have lost 99% of their population in just the last century. Overfishing is a huge threat to these living fossils, and if we want them to be around in the future, we have to act now.
Great news in the battle against illegal fishing: Morocco has passed an amendment banning the use, possession, manufacture or sale of driftnets.
Known as â€ścurtains of death,â€ť driftnets are a type of illegal fishing gear that can be nearly 100 feet high and 12 miles long. Because they are so passive and indiscriminate, driftnets snag whateverâ€™s in their path, including many marine mammals and other endangered species.
The UN passed an international moratorium on driftnets 15 years ago, and the EU instituted a ban seven years ago, but many French, Italian and Moroccan vessels have continued using them.