Fish stocks in the North and West of Europe are recovering, but there are still serious problems of overfishing in the Mediterranean Sea. That's the key message Maria Damanaki, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, passes in this year's report on the state of fish stocks and the preparation of setting next years' fish quotas. The document is now open to the views of stakeholders via an online public consultation, before the Commission makes its proposals for the 2015 fishing opportunities during the autumn.
For the first time, the Commission could take into account scientific advice for the state of the stocks in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
The fish stock data for the Mediterranean show a dismal picture: 96% or more of the Mediterranean bottom-living fish are overfished, and for the middle-water stocks like sardine and anchovy the figure is 71% or more. For the Black Sea, all bottom-living fish and 33% of pelagic stocks are overfished.
But there is good news elsewhere, as in the Northeast Atlantic area, and that includes the Baltic and North Seas, overfishing has fallen from 86% (30 stocks overfished out of 35 assessed) in 2009 to 41% (19 out of 46 stocks) in 2014.
"I am very worried how badly things are going in the Mediterranean Sea", European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, said. "Now that scientists have assessed many more fish stocks over the last five years, the time of denial is over: the Mediterranean Sea is heavily overfished. I see a long struggle and hard work ahead: We need to build up the science, adopt regional fishing plans to bring fishing down to sustainable levels. If we do not act now, we will lose the tremendous potential of these resources for future generations. The new Common Fisheries Policy offers an opportunity that we must live up to, and I shall be discussing this with all the Fisheries Ministers in the Mediterranean Member States".
On the situation in the Northeast Atlantic area, Commissioner Damanaki stated: "The successful recovery of fish stocks in the Northeast Atlantic proves to me that with the right rules in place, it is possible to bring overfishing to an end. When good science is available, when catches are set at the right level and when – most important of all - the fishermen join in the efforts to protect the stocks, then I am sure we will see further improvements ahead. These are the principles that the reformed Common Fisheries Policy is based on."
In its annual consultation paper, the European Commission sets out its views and intentions for setting fishing opportunities – the levels of Total Allowable Catches (TACs), quotas and fishing effort - for 2015 and asks for the views of Member States, the fishing industry and non-governmental organisations in regional Advisory Councils, as well as interested citizens and organisations via an online public consultation.
On this basis, the Commission will make its firm proposals for fishing opportunities for 2015 during the autumn.
This is the first fishing opportunities consultation paper since the entry into force of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy on 1 January 2014. The Commission's main intentions are to phase out overfishing according to the new Common Fisheries Policy's objective, to phase out the practice of throwing unwanted fish back into the water and to give decision-making power back to regional stakeholders.
The Commission relies heavily on scientific advice provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) and other independent bodies.