Ireland plays a “leading role” in allowing overfishing

2 November 2020

Ireland has played a “leading role” in the EU-wide failure to end overfishing, a new report concludes. 

Authored by Policy Officer Fintan Kelly, BirdWatch Ireland published their assessment of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) 2020, and noted in their title that it was a “discarded opportunity”. 

The current CFP came into force in 2014, adopted under an Irish EU presidency, and set a legally binding deadline to end overfishing by 2015 “where possible” and set 2020 as the latest year to stop the practice. 

However, 46 per cent of the agreed fishing limits within the policy were exceeded figures from last December reveal. 

According to BirdWatch Ireland’s own analysis, Ireland exceeded 51 per cent of the fishing limits for this year and also has some of the least sustainably managed fish stocks in the North East Atlantic. 

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

The collapse of Herring and Cod stocks has hit small inshore fishing vessels the hardest, which to date make up 80 per cent of Ireland’s national fleet. 

As a result, the sector has now become heavily dependent on a limited number of shellfish and lobster stocks. 

“This lack of resilience has left the sector extremely vulnerable to crises, such as the collapse in markets driven by Covid-19”, BirdWatch Ireland said. 

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

Governmental responsibility 

Fisheries Ministers have been allowed to “control the narrative” around negotiations, BirdWatch Ireland said and as a result, extra quotas were prioritised over the medium to long term benefits of sustainable fisheries for the environment and communities that depend on them. 

However, BirdWatch Ireland stress, the environmental and socio-economic benefits of sustainable fisheries management remain “within reach”. 

Setting sustainable fishing limits, improving data collection, rebuilding depleted stocks, fully implementing a landing obligation, ensuring cooperation continues with the UK and overseeing a sustainable recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic can “place Ireland on a trajectory to become a world leader in sustainable fisheries management”. 

“We have an unprecedented opportunity to grow our blue economy, creating more jobs in marginal coastal communities while delivering a healthy and resilient marine environment. 

This is an opportunity we cannot afford to ignore any longer”, BirdWatch Ireland said. 

About the Author

Kayle Crosson