On 11 and 12 December, EU fishing ministers will be meeting in Brussels to determine the total allowable catch for fish stocks in the North Sea and Atlantic for the year 2018. The Ministers’ decision will determine whether the EU will enact the legally imposed halt to overfishing by 2020. “Fishing is a key issue for the future of our planet and society. The EU must assume responsibility for this and do everything to comply with their own legislation for sustainable fishing. We need consistent action, not dilution of the issue,” demands Dr. Ursula Hudson, chairperson of Slow Food Deutschland.
In 2013, European Union decision-makers agreed on a far-reaching reform of their Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). This reform means that the EU is legally bound to end overfishing by 2015 if possible, but at the latest by 2020. The stock size of a fish species in one specific cultivation area has to be large enough to allow sustainable fishing without endangering yields or reproductivity in the long term – a concept known as Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY). The aim is to restore fish stocks in EU waters, with the size of each stock being above the level at which the maximum sustainable yield can be achieved.
This is a requirement for recovering fish stocks, protecting marine ecosystems, and increasing the social and economic benefits of EU fisheries. Since the reformed CFP was introduced at the start of 2014, stock biomass has increased, however, recovery is still a far from realistic aim, as described in the new report “Taking Stock: Progress Towards Ending Overfishing in the European Union” by the internationally renowned consultancy firm, Poseidon Aquatic Resource Management Ltd. In 2017, the political decision-makers set 55% of the catch quotas too high, in spite of economic recommendations. Furthermore, there are gaps in fisheries data collection, as published by the EU commission, as well as a lack of transparency in the Commission’s and the Council’s process of determining catch quotas. This makes it difficult to draw conclusions on the progress towards targets introduced by the CFP.
“The current situation in many fish stocks is still critical and the latest developments provide neither the conditions for nor the civic trust in the EU ending overfishing by 2020. We are talking about deadlines set and determined by EU legislation”, said Ursula Hudson, “I hope for the sake of democracy, as well as for the sake of man, animal and the environment, that those responsible now implement significant changes. Not a knee-jerk, last-minute reaction, but a consistent program over the course of the next three years.” Multiyear plans must also be determined for individual fish stocks and different maritime regions.
In order to reform fishing and aquaculture so that they are environmentally sustainable and economically and socially viable, Slow Food believes that it is essential that we promote artisanal fishing, the collaboration of local, public and private players with scientific and civic representatives beyond regional and national borders, and a more diverse catch rather than focusing on just a few species. Artisanal fishers must be involved in the decision-making process and resource management. They know the local ecosystems and stocks and how to be flexible to changes in their region, for example due to climate change, and are an absolutely essential factor in coastal food security. Most small-scale fisherman are, however, more often suppliers for intermediaries, wholesale trade and auctions rather than directly to customers, and as such do not have much influence on price mechanisms or the value chain. Politicians must intervene in a regulatory capacity in order to provide the necessary conditions for direct marketing and diversification measures.
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