Better fish stock management could yield billions, says report


Extra revenues from more sustainable EU fish stocks could deliver additional catch worth €3.2 billion yearly and lead to the creation of 100,000 new jobs in the sector, according to a report by a sustainability think-tank.

The report ‘Unknown Waters’, by British think tank New Economics, says the additional revenue could be generated provided governments triple the amount spent on collecting data on fish stocks and enforce rules to prevent over-fishing.

On 23 October the European Parliament’s fisheries committee is set to vote on how to spend the €6.57 billion budget for the sector agreed by European ministers earlier this year.

New Economics advises lawmakers to direct the funds towards data collection, control and enforcement to ensure that the EU’s fish stocks recover enough to allow large-scale fishing.

Currently, the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund allocates €51.4 million to data collection and €49.3 million for control and enforcement annually, about 1.5% of the value of landings.

“Tripling this amount to €302 million annually would be a small investment given the additional gains in jobs and food supplies. For every €1 invested in data collection, control and enforcement, there is a potential return of €10,” the report says.

Discard law

Roberto Ferrigno, a fisheries expert at environmental NGO WWF, says spending on enforcement would be a wise use of taxpayer money.

Ferrigno said “we need more funding for data collection, control and enforcement. We need public money to support innovative fishing practices, so that we can manage fisheries sustainably and allow depleted stocks to recover.”

The report, an overview of EU fisheries studies, says that a lack of proper enforcement could undermine the ban on fish discards agreed by ministers. A 2011 European Commission impact assessment showed that EU fishers currently discard an average of a quarter of their catch, reaching up to 70% in some areas.

North Sea cod suffers the worst average discard rate, 38%.

New Economics quotes research showing links between government enforcement and the lower prevalence of illegal or unregulated fishing.

The Community Fisheries Control Agency estimates that about one in 17 vessels are infringing EU fishing regulations at any one time.

About 80% of Mediterranean and 47% of Atlantic stocks are over-fished, European Commission figures show.

The European Parliament on 6 February 2013 overwhelmingly backed reform to end decades of over-fishing and restore EU sea stocks to healthy levels by 2020.

The European Council agreed to the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy in May.

The Common Fisheries Policy, which dates back to the 1970s, is widely regarded as a failure. It has allowed subsidised, industrial-sized fleets to devastate fish stocks, while eurosceptics have scorned it as bureaucratic.

The revised policy, to take effect in 2014, is designed to enforce sustainable catch limits.

  • 23 October: European Parliament’s fisheries committee to vote on how to spend the sector's budget

NGOs and think tanks

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