EU fisheries stakeholders stress science


Lindsey Partos, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Paris

Published on
September 16, 2010

Science must underpin the decision-making process for managing European fisheries, agreed stakeholders at a seminar in Brussels, Belgium, on Tuesday.

But by contrast, a clear message resounded: The flow of scientific data is inadequate.

With a spotlight on the state of fish stocks in European waters, the European Commission gathered fishermen, scientists, politicians and non-governmental organizations to discuss the latest research on EU fisheries, and the way forward for stocks in 2011.

For Maria Damanaki, the EU fisheries commissioner, fundamentals of fisheries management are tightly interwoven with scientific advice.

“Taking science as our starting point is the only possible approach,” she told attendees in her opening speech.

But introducing a recurrent critique of the day, Damanaki stressed that while member states must ensure that scientists receive the data they require, this does “not always happen in practice.”

Indeed, Damanaki underlined “too many cases” where information is lacking, or worse, where the information itself suggests “something is actually wrong with the data.”

“The data for some stocks suffers from contradictions and shows large amounts of discards or illegal landings,” she said. “And there are also too many cases of member states not fulfilling their obligations in collecting data — particularly on discarding.”

One striking example of missing data came from John Anderson. An EU economist heavily involved in shaping Europe’s annual report on economic performance of the EU fishing fleet, Anderson presented the 2008 report to the seminar attendees. His report was compiled without data from key nations Spain and Greece, and to a lesser extent, Ireland. These three countries had failed to submit information.

Henri Farrugio, chair of the Scientific Advisory Council of the general fisheries council for the Mediterranean, painted a broad-stroke picture of the southern sea, highlighting both successes and problems in fisheries management.

But in presenting the picture, Farrugio emphasized that despite the rise in scientific knowledge on the state of the stocks, “Too much information is still missing.”

Kenneth Patterson of the European Commission spoke of “data issues” and the need to improve the “information basis.” He warned: “We’re not making progress on the knowledge of stocks data. Unfortunately the level has gone down.”

ICES — the 1,500-scientist strong International Council for the Exploration of the Sea — has advised the commission to “look in detail” where information is missing. In theory, sanctions can be imposed on member states if data is missing. 

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