Over 300 scientists urge the EU to end overfishing

11 September 2020 

Over 300 scientists have urged the EU Commissioner for the Environment, Ocean and Fisheries to end overfishing in response to the ongoing biodiversity and climate crises. 

The campaign, launched by environmental NGO Our Fish, sent a statement to Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius this week and called on the Commission, the European Parliament and all Member States to bring an end to the highly-damaging practice. 

The document will also be delivered to fisheries ministers across the bloc before annual fishing limits are agreed to for next year and to MEPs who are preparing responses to the EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy. 

Overfishing depletes fish stock which can then only support small catches, creating a system that Dr. Rainer Fröse of GEMOMAR says, “makes no sense at all”.

“It doesn’t help the fishermen, it doesn’t help the fish, it doesn’t help anyone,” he said. 

The practice also negatively impacts our climate, as small stocks mean species cannot fulfill their role in the ecosystem. 

“If the ecosystem does not function properly, it cannot breathe properly and it cannot absorb CO2 properly,” Dr Fröse said. 

Oceans have absorbed approximately 93 per cent of excess planetary warming to date and have taken in 30 per cent of CO2, which has led to ocean acidification

A warmer ocean itself threatens coastal communities and melting ice due to climate change and melting freshwater reduces the salinity of the ocean, which fundamentally changes currents and weather patterns around the globe. 

Rather than deplete the oceans resources, the coalition is asking for an ecosystem-based management of fisheries, one that takes into account the interconnectedness and interdependence of various components of an ecosystem. 

Extinction Rebellion protest on overfishing, December 2019 Photo: Kayle Crosson

Where fisheries policy stands 

As part of the European Council’s Common Fishery Policy (CFP), Member States were required to eliminate overfishing by the start of this year

The target was initially set for 2015 and was subsequently extended by five years. With just three months left to go in 2020, the EU still remains off-course to meet it. 

And according to the Marine Institute, just under half of commercially exploited fish populations are hunted within limits which scientists consider to be sustainable, while the fishing of eight species are recommended to be stopped entirely, including herring and cod. 

Ireland to date has also been accused of “severe and significant weaknesses” in the control of fishing activity with a lack of “effective” enforcement and penalties in place.

Additionally, ClientEarth found, Ireland has regularly pushed for catch limits above scientific advice and has had the highest percentage of decisions where it successfully pushed for higher catch limits in the three year timeframe for the ClientEarth study. 

About the Author

Kayle Crosson