European nonprofits believe quotas remain too high

An umbrella group of environmental NGOs from across Europe has warned that despite new fishing limits enacted by the European Commission’s Fisheries’ Council of Ministers, quotas for many deep-sea species are set too high to curb overfishing.

Seas at Risk, The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition and Bloom, all non-profit organizations seeking greater marine protection, said in a joint statement they were “disappointed by the decisions on fishing limits for deep-sea fish stocks.”

“We had high hopes that the Fisheries Ministers would complement the political agreement for the protection of the deep-sea environment taken earlier this year by adopting precautious deep-sea fisheries quotas,” Seas at Risk Executive Director Monica Verbeek said. “It is utterly disappointing that the ministers decided to ignore scientific advice and continue overfishing."

In July, the European Parliament approved council-backed measures to protect deep-sea fish, sponges and corals, including a ban on using trawling below 800 meters of water depth, with areas considered especially vulnerable protected from trawling below 400 meters.

This month, the council sought to clarify total allowable catch limits for deep-sea species, many of which are mainly caught as bycatch. Little scientific research has been performed on many of these species, but according to United Nations policy, when the scientific information available does not make it possible to identify sustainable exploitation rates, “no fishing opportunities should be allocated for the fisheries concerned.”

Verbeek said the council ignored scientific advice or that scientific advice was not available in regard to red seabream, black scabbard, greater forkbeard, deep-sea sharks and roundnose grenadier. She said deep-sea species are generally slow-growing, late-maturing and have a low reproductive rate, making them “particularly vulnerable to overfishing, especially when there is limited scientific knowledge.”


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