Blog Tags: Overfishing
Maximum sustainable yield, bycatch and discards, exclusive economic zones, essential fish habitat. If you’ve ever read one of these terms and wondered what it meant, you’re in luck. In each issue of Oceana magazine, fisheries scientist and Oceana board member Dr. Daniel Pauly breaks down a commonly used fisheries term.
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 have some big news for you –Brunei has become the first Asian country to adopt a nationwide shark fin ban! With his June 7 announcement, Sultan Hossanal Bolkiah’s decree officially banned the catch and landing of all shark species from the waters of Brunei Darussalam, as well as shark fin sales in the domestic market, and the importation and trade of shark products.
On World Oceans Day this past Saturday, Oceana launched its first ever Baltic Sea coastal expedition. We’ve dedicated this mission to studying the Baltic coastline, and particularly Sweden, Denmark, Poland and Finland, where a number of unique and incredible areas will be explored
Sawfish have a reason to breathe a little easier today: The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has completed comprehensive status reviews under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and has determined that five foreign species of sawfish meet the definition of “endangered” under the Act. Of course, this “victory” is bittersweet: no one is celebrating the fact that sawfish species are endangered, but rather that they now will finally receive the protections they so desperately need to recover their numbers.
As we wrote about last week, the EU has taken some major steps toward a strong Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). That could mean less overfishing, better protection for endangered species, and an overall healthier ocean. Just a day after that agreement was reached, it seems that the CFP principles are set up for their first test.
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:
“Today, we, EU citizens, have broken the EU governments’ 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 communities’ livelihoods are guaranteed by plentiful seas.”
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.
A report out this week, “Resources Futures” by the venerable U.K. NGO, the Chatham House, issues a clarion call for wiser management of the world’s finite resources. In the face of a more crowded planet in the coming century, as billions aspire to a resource-intensive western lifestyle, pressure on the world’s food systems and its reserves of raw materials could become more acute.
This is especially true for the world’s fisheries and the report singles out practices, like unnecessarily generous subsidies for fishing fleets and the wide-scale waste of discarded fish as adding to the global decline of fish stocks. Interestingly, the report also asserts that overfishing poses not only a major threat to food security, but to broader world security as well. The authors write:
“Given the importance of fishing to livelihoods in many poor and rural areas, over-fishing can have other effects on security. Analysts have linked the rise of piracy off the Horn of Africa in recent years, for example, with the inability of the Somali state to prevent the overfishing of Somali waters by European, Asian and African ships. The reduction in fish stocks essentially raises the cost of legitimate livelihood. As one account puts it, ‘in a region where legitimate business is difficult, where drought means agriculture is nothing more than subsistence farming, and instability and violence make death a very real prospect, the dangers of piracy must be weighed against the potentially massive returns.’ Some pirates have even used this as a justification for their actions, arguing that they are protecting their resources and that ransom payments should be seen as a form of legitimate taxation. Overfishing also played an important role in the development of piracy in Southeast Asia.”
If it’s October 16th then it’s World Food Day! At Oceana we recognize the importance of this day, launched in 1979 by the UN to bring light to the issue of world hunger. With the world population careening towards 9 billion by mid-century and arable land growing both more scarce and more vulnerable thanks to global warming, we believe that well-managed fisheries will be critical to feeding the world.
Right now the world’s fisheries are not nearly as productive as they could be. More than half are over-exploited and technologically advanced fishing fleets are searching far and wide for ever more remote fish stocks that have yet to be exploited. But the idea that we can perpetually decimate stock after stock is not realistic on a finite planet. We need to manage our fisheries so that they give us enough to eat year after year. The good news is there are proven ways to do this.
1) Science-based quotas. Taking so many fish out of the water that populations are unable to maintain themselves one way to ensure collapse. Basing quotas on fish biology, rather than fishing industry interests is the only way to ensure that fish stocks will survive into the future.
3) Reduce bycatch. Bycatch is the incidental catch of species not targeted by fishermen. It may sound like an obscure industry topic, but bycatch makes up over 10% of the world’s catch, or more than 16 billion pounds of wasted seafood every year. Bycatch is also a killer of endangered sea turtles, sharks and marine mammals.
These are steps that have been proven to restore stocks of fish wherever they have been implemented, from Baltic cod, to Spanish anchovies; from Japanese snow crab, to Norway herring, and the list goes on. While it’s counterintuitive, by imposing limits to what we catch today we will actually be able to increase the amount of fish that we catch tomorrow. A new study published in Science showed that sensible management could increase fish yields up to 40% and increase the biomass in the oceans by a whopping 56%! If managed wisely, our fisheries could provide the world with 700 million nutritious meals every day. That will be vital on a planet where almost a billion people already go hungry every day.
This World Food Day learn more about the world’s food security and vow to help fight world hunger. At Oceana it’s one of our highest priorities.
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.
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