Blog Tags: European Union
Deep ocean species grow slowly and produce few offspring, making them very vulnerable to overfishing. But the European Union fleet in the North-East Atlantic fishes down to depths of 1,500 meters, using bottom-fishing gear that destroys thousand-year-old corals and sponge beds. Even more worrying, up to 80 percent of trawl catches are discarded and thrown away.
Rainbow colored tropical fish, jumping dolphins, and incredible sea turtles are often what comes to mind when thinking of the oceans. The deep sea, dark and less colorful, but possibly even more awe-inspiring, can sometimes be ignored since it is so far below our world. That may be why, in the European Union (EU), the main regulation to manage fisheries occurring in this fragile world have not been updated since 2002.
Yesterday, Oceana released the results of a six-month study on European Union (EU) subsidies to the fishing sector since 2000, and the results were shocking. Our report showed that 4.9 billion euros in subsidies were granted in the form of “state aid” for the fishing sectors, with most of this €4.9 billion ($6.3 billion) fueling overfishing and environmentally harmful practices. Our estimates show that of this €4.9 billion, only 1% can be identified as beneficial to the marine environment. To add insult to grave environmental injury, despite the EU’s commitment to transparency, we found that information on how tax payer money is being spent and allocated to these fishing subsidies is both scarce and unclear.
We at Oceana are thrilled to share this news with you – the European Union (EU) has just officially adopted a strict ban on shark finning! Saturday ended nearly a decade of battle to close several enforcement loopholes that had permitted some forms of shark finning. Finning has technically been prohibited in the EU since 2003, but an exemption allowed Member States to issue special permits for fishing vessels to remove shark fins on board. In particular, an exemption used by Spain and Portugal allowed some vessels to remove sharks’ fins at sea, which made it nearly impossible to detect and monitor the finning that was occurring.
We’ve got some great news to share with you – The European Union (EU) agreed on Thursday to tighten their existing ban on shark finning, and to effectively close a final loophole in the ban on finning. With the change, shark finning will be forbidden by all vessels in EU waters and by all EU-registered vessels around the world. “Shark finning is one of the main threats to the shark population,” Sandrine Polti, policy adviser to the Shark Alliance, explained to the Huffington Post. “We’re now in a much better position to push for a global shark-finning ban.”
Big news out of Oceana Europe today! Given that the EU is one of the 10 governing bodies that controls a majority of the world's fisheries, it's a big damn deal whether they manage their fisheries well. With so many countries weighing in, reaching a good Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is no simple task. As of today, they have taken a huge step toward that goal.
Early this morning, May 30, the European Parliament and Fisheries Council reached a political agreement on the main elements of the updated CFP. The key elements are that the future CFP will:
- Ensure that stocks are rebuilt above levels which can produce the Maximum Sustainable Yield
- Ban discards
- Generally transition the fishing industry into fishing much more sustainably
As 2013 rapidly approaches, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on the past year at Oceana. Thanks to your support, we were able to achieve more than a dozen major victories for the oceans! You signed petitions to lawmakers and companies, submitted seafood samples and participated in rallies and events, and it made a difference. Here are five of the major victories we won in 2012 as a result:
1. Alibaba.com stops selling manta ray products
When Oceana discovered that the online international marketplace Alibaba.com was selling manta ray products, we asked for your help in stopping it. Nearly 40,000 of you responded by signing our petition, and Alibaba listened, removing manta ray leather products from the website.
2. Victories for the endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtle
2012 was a good year for endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtles. We helped establish the first permanent safe haven for leatherbacks in continental U.S. waters this year. The government designated nearly 42,000 square miles of critical habitat off the West Coast. The Pacific leatherback was also designated as California’s official state reptile following a bill sponsored and supported by Oceana with the support of thousands of California citizens and more than 30 conservation groups.
Pirate fishermen are currently enjoying a gold rush in Europe selling the liver oil from illegally caught deep-sea sharks. Some of the world’s most notorious pirate fishing vessels have been able to exploit loopholes in weak EU laws designed to prevent the sale of illegally caught fish, but that overlook the sale of shark liver oil. As a result these poorly-understood animals are suffering.
Deep-sea sharks, which live below 300 meters, use the oil in their livers to regulate their buoyancy, but in consumer products the oil, or squalene, is used in everything from cosmetics to Omega-3 dietary supplements to industrial lubricants. Deep-sea sharks are slow-growing and slow to mature making them especially vulnerable to overfishing. That’s why Oceana is calling on the EU to close a loophole that allows this illegally caught product to come to market.
As Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana Europe said on Thursday:
“Vulnerable deep-sea sharks have become the new gold pursued by internationally renowned poachers – including vessels that have been linked to European interests. As long as EU rules against illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing neglect this product, European borders remain wide open to illegal shark liver oil.”
In the past Oceana has successfully fought to end the use of shark liver oil in consumer products. In 2008, following pressure from Oceana, Unilever announced that it would remove shark squalene from its cosmetic brands, including Pond’s and Dove. In North America, Oceana persuaded the Vermont Country Store to stop selling an shark squalene skin enhancer unfortunately branded as “Oceana”.
Know what’s in your lip gloss or face-cream. Alternative squalene sources exist, including olive oil, rice bran, wheat germ and amaranth seeds. Before you freshen up make sure you aren’t leaving sharks out to dry and help Oceana bring an end to illegal fishing.
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:
“The impact has devastated much of Spain’s coastal economy. It has also generated intensifying criticism of European Union policies that, environmental groups and experts say, have increased fishing communities’ 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 Europe’s fleet. The new boats are typically bigger and more powerful, adding pressure on declining fish populations.”
The article also references an Oceana study published last year that outlines the insanity of the European Union’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, “The role of subsidies to the issue of overcapacity and overfishing cannot be sufficiently emphasized.”
Help Oceana fight to end these destructive and counterproductive subsidies and to restore the abundance of the oceans.
The European Parliament is set to vote next week on a complete ban of shark finning for the EU fishing fleet. EU fishermen currently span the globe fishing for sharks, from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, to the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean, ranking second in shark catch globally.
Predictably, the move has drawn the hackles of the fishing industry which claims that the ban will cost them more than €9 million. This might seem like a lot--that is, unless, you take into account the fact that boats authorized to cut off shark fins have received more than €117 million in EU subsidies from 1994 to 2007. As executive director of Oceana Europe, Xavier Pastor says about the measure:
“European tax payers have invested a huge sum of money in these fishing vessels. They paid to help build them, modernise them, and support them while they headed off in search of new fishing grounds for sharks. Now, Europe is asking these vessels to commit to sustainable fishing practices for the sake of both the sharks and the future of the fishing sector.”
Shark finning, as the name implies, is the brutal practice of slicing off a shark’s fin and then discarding the shark, which is often still alive, overboard, where it is left to die. It is estimated that more than 70 million sharks every year are killed, mostly to supply growing demand in Asia for shark fin soup. While the shark fin itself is a mostly flavorless component of the dish, its conspicuous consumption at weddings, banquets and business meetings has become a status symbol for the region’s growing middle class.
We'll keep you posted as the story unfolds!