Fishing quotas undermine CFP, says WWF Published: 04 October, 2007
North Sea cod stocks are not showing signs of improvement, says the report
FIVE years from its next reform, the EU Common Fisheries Policy is failing in its primary purpose to achieve the sustainable management of European fish stocks, according to a new report commissioned by WWF, the global conservation organisation.
The way fisheries quotas are set is fuelling the chronic problem of overfishing in Europe, putting at risk fish stocks and the future of the fishing sector, the report says.
The report examines the progress of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy half way through its mandate (from 2002 until 2012). It states that the majority of European fisheries are in fact not being properly managed, that scientific advice is too often ignored and that quotas agreed by the European Fisheries Ministers have largely been set much above sustainable limits.
It is clear that the problems related to annual quota setting have not been eliminated since 2002 and a new horse-trading season to set quotas for 2008 is about to start. This is not a failure which can be laid at the door of the Commission alone, but a systematic shortcoming of the EU management and decision making structure itself. It raises serious concerns, as to whether the functioning of the Common Fisheries Policy is fit for purpose, says Aaron McLoughlin, Head of WWFs European Marine Programme.
In 2006 and 2007, the majority of quotas recommended by the European Commission for the North Sea and the Celtic Sea regions were greater than those proposed by the International Council for Exploration of the Seas, the scientific body advising the Commission.
Carol Phua, WWF European fisheries policy officer, said the present system does not allow for proper implementation of ICES advice.It was crucial that a mechanism which would allow a speedy review of fish quota decisions which did not contribute to the implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy in terms of sound science, was injected into the system.
At present there was no analysis of the consequences of unsound decisions, consequences which did not fall on fisheries ministers’ shoulders.
Other findings in the report include the fact that the Council has rarely adopted the necessary reductions in quotas for cod, in line with the agreed recovery plan. For the North Sea stock, a 55 per cent reduction in quota was not adopted in 2005. In 2006, the reduction was only 12 per cent compared to the required 16 per cent. In the Kattegat, a 51 per cent reduction was thought appropriate in 2005, but only a 27 per cent reduction was implemented. As a result, the report says, none of the cods stocks appear to be showing any signs of improvement compared to 2002.
According to WWF, four-fifths of EU fish stocks are outside safe biological limits in 2007. It says that while the core of the problem clearly lies with the fisheries ministers setting higher quotas than those proposed by the European Commission, the analysis demonstrates that the Commission has also exceeded scientific advice.
The framework may be sound, but its operation by the Commission and the Council distorts the original intent, especially when it comes to tough choices in the application of the precautionary principle, adds Aaron McLoughlin.
Ahead of the 2008 fishing quota negotiations in December, WWF is urging the Commission and fisheries ministers to take a strong stance and agree on quotas that follow scientific advice.
The report can be downloaded from:
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