Current EU fisheries policy is unsustainable, study says

Fish caught by pulse fishing presents ulcers and other wounds. [Shutterstock]

The EU’s fishing industry could be heading towards ruin without robust regulatory reform, says a new WWF-commissioned study published today (16 October).

The study, carried out by Dutch renewables consultancy Framian BV, said that if the status quo continues, fishing fleets in the EU will land 1.4 million tonnes, or 30%, less fish by 2022 compared to 2009 figures.

The European Commission has attempted to tackle the decline of fish stocks by imposing stricter regulations in EU waters, but to the detriment of the industry, says the study.

Current laws, it says, would have serious consequences for employment, forecasting a loss of 50,000 jobs in fishing by 2022.

Tony Long, the director of WWF’s European policy office, noted that “a long-term stable supply of fish is possible, but only if fish resource are managed sustainably.”

While landings in the EU have fallen by an average of 3.7% per year, other European producers such as Iceland and Norway have kept their output at relatively constant levels.

But if lawmakers push through robust fisheries reform and allow stocks to return to “sustainable levels”, fisherman can expect to land 2.8 million tonnes (80%) more of fish in EU waters, the study says. This would translate into some €2.1 billion per year extra in income.

The European Parliament has already endorsed a call from the EU executive to overhaul the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) but will not adopt its position until January 2013.

The Council of Ministers has committed to sustainability being the leading objective of new regulations.

Sink or swim

The WWF suggests that fish populations should be allowed to grow back into levels that can support maximum sustainable yield (MSY) by 2015. MSY describes the maximum yield of a specified species of fish that can be fished year after year without harming the fish stock.

The study also:

  • Recommends that the EU draft multi-annual plans outlining what species can and cannot be fished and enhance cooperation between regions by the same year;
  • Flagged the wasteful practice of discarding unwanted fish. The WFF suggests putting an almost complete stop to this by 2018 at the latest;
  • Recommends that subsidy payments be made only to fishermen using sustainable catching practices.
  • 28 Nov.: European Parliament Fisheries Committee to decide and vote on CFP.


Measure co-financed by the European Union

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication [communication] reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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