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Commercial fishing

EU fishing policy is keeping stocks at the edge of catastrophe, say scientists

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Temporary ban could see EU fish stocks bounce back


27th January, 2010

Scientists believe a ban on certain catches, including cod and plaice, could allow populations to recover, but their calls have been dismissed by the fishing industry

Europe is set to miss its target of restoring the stocks of more than 90 per cent of fish species, according to a report by leading fisheries scientists.

Scientists from ‘The Future Ocean’, which brings together both scientists and economists, analysed data from all major fisheries in the North East Atlantic to assess whether the EU would meet 2015 targets set by the UN Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.

Stocks depleted

They found that if current trends continue, Europe would miss the deadline by more than 30 years. Even with a complete ban on fishing, 22 per cent of stocks are so depleted that they could not be rebuilt by the 2015 deadline.

‘If European ministers in charge of fishing were serious about their obligations, they would have to reduce drastically fishing pressure and halt fishing completely on some stocks,’ the report said.

One of the scientists, Dr. Rainer Froese said that current EU fisheries policy is 'keeping stocks at the edge of catastrophe'.

Temporary ban

Dr Froese said that if the EU switched to a more sustainable fishing policy and temporarily banned catches of certain species then fishing yields could be as much as 80 per cent higher.

‘If Europe had acted on its international pledges of sustainable management, then catches could be about 80 per cent higher than they currently are.  

‘When you are in a mess, you need to stop fishing for a while to get better. If we stopped fishing stocks would regrow,’ said Dr Froese.


The report says North Sea cod and plaice stocks would need ten and six years respectively to recover. While this might have an effect on fishermen, it adds, 'the respective cost will, in all likelihood, be overcompensated by medium- to long-term gains in production and earnings.’

But Rory Campbell of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation said a halt or drastic reduction in fishing would be ‘catastrophic’ for the industry.

‘The idea that maximum sustainable yield benefits fishermen is still very much a theory.  Maximum economic yield is what’s best for the fishing industry.’

Useful links

Link to full report


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