500,000 Europeans call on EU to end overfishing ahead of Northeast Atlantic catch talks

Published on
December 16, 2019

With E.U. fisheries ministers this week meeting in the European Union’s capital, Brussels, to set fishing levels for the Northeast Atlantic for 2020, European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans, and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius, and Minister Jari Leppa representing the Finnish Presidency of the Council, have been presented with more than a half-million signatures from E.U. citizens calling for member states to end overfishing.

The petition was given to the officials by 13-year-old Farrah Delrue and 10-year-old Josephine Seton. Also attending the handover were the so-called “Ocean Avengers,” a team of superheroes that are urging Sinkevičius to convey the message “Ending overfishing is climate action” to AGRIFISH ministers, and insisting they must obey the law by setting fishing limits within scientific advice. 

“This week, E.U. fisheries ministers could go from zero to superhero by recognizing the demands of half a million E.U. citizens to end overfishing. This is their chance to take urgent and effective climate action to protect the ocean – our greatest ally against climate change,” Our Fish Program Director Rebecca Hubbard said. “Ministers also have the opportunity to help meet the aspirations of the European Green Deal, and to act on the E.U. Council’s recent imperative, which stresses that member states must give extra attention to delivering on SDG 2020 goals, and on implementation of the E.U. Common Fisheries Policy.”

It has been highlighted by some campaign groups that overfishing was outlawed by the reformed E.U. Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) in 2013, with E.U. fisheries ministers obligated to meet a 2020 deadline to eradicate the practice. But they say that fisheries ministers have still repeatedly surpassed the limits advised by scientists by setting quotas above this advice in six out of every 10 cases since the CFP was reformed in 2013 and rarely set fishing quotas at more sustainable levels than the Commission proposes. 

“To date, the most profound impact on the marine environment has come from fishing – ending overfishing is a quick, deliverable action which will restore fish populations, create more resilient ocean ecosystems, decrease CO2 pollution and increase carbon capture, and deliver more profitable fisheries and thriving coastal communities,” Seas At Risk Executive Director Monica Verbeek said. “E.U. fisheries ministers can deliver emergency climate action by setting fishing limits within scientific advice 2020 this week.”

According to Sciaena Executive Coordinator Gonçalo Carvalho, 40 percent of Northeast Atlantic fish populations continue to be overfished by the E.U. fleet.

“By playing to narrow, short-term politics and profits, fisheries ministers now face even tougher decisions for fish like cod. It’s time to turn things around – fisheries ministers must stop trying to negotiate nature’s limits, show some political courage, and use the scientific advice for maximum sustainable fishing catches without any more delays,” he said.

Meanwhile, the annual E.U. AGRIFISH Council meetings were recently investigated by the E.U. Ombudsman and found to be lacking in transparency.

ClientEarth’s Flaminia Tacconi said that must change this year, and E.U. ministers must respect the law and set fishing limits at sustainable levels in line with scientific advice.

“The 2020 deadline to end overfishing is not an aspirational deadline to be missed and forgotten about – breaking the law has serious consequences,” she said.

Photo courtesy of OurFish

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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