Despite an optimistic vote in September at plenary session in the European Parliament to end overfishing, the key 3 EU institutions failed to reach an ambitious deal in the final negotiations, that would have ensured truly sustainable management of North Sea fisheries.
The North Sea Multi-Annual Plan (NSMAP) covers nearly one-third of all fish catches in EU waters, and includes species such as cod, haddock, whiting, sole, plaice and Norway lobster.
During “trilogues” the European Parliament, Commission and Council, backtracked on environmental protection and reached an unsatisfactory compromise for the plan, with proposed ranges of catch limits that will not guarantee full recovery of all fish stocks and will continue to make overfishing possible. Furthermore, the plan disregards so called “by-catch” species and sets lower targets for these.
The European Union has a legal obligation under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) regulation to rebuild all harvested fish stocks and to stop overfishing by 2020.
The final deal on the North Sea management plan is disappointing. The EU institutions are turning a blind eye to the binding requirements set by the CFP. Future multiannual plans must be firmer on the recovery of all our fish resources, if the EU is serious about reaching the 2020 legal deadline to stop overfishing,” said Lasse Gustavsson, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe.
The North Sea hosts Europe’s most important fishing ground with annual catches of 1.3 million tonnes. However, 42% of the North Sea stocks are still overfished, including haddock and whiting. Scientists estimate that if managed sustainably, within the next 10 years the stocks have the potential to produce an additional 1.45 million tonnes of fish annually. For example, haddock and cod catches in the North Sea could potentially increase by up to 400%.