Europe's fish stocks focus of meeting


Lindsey Partos, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Paris

Published on
July 26, 2009

 European fisheries stakeholders gathered on Thursday in Brussels, Belgium, to discuss the health of the region's fish stocks under the aegis of the European Commission in a first step toward increased transparency.

The one-day seminar drew industry representatives, scientists, environmental NGOs, European Parliament members and the public to consider the most recent scientific advice on European fish stocks, such as anchovyherringwhiting and cod.

A spokesperson for EU Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg told SeafoodSource the meeting was "constructive."

Industry was well represented at the meeting, said the spokesperson, adding that the gathering marked the first time such an open configuration of stakeholders had met to discuss Europe's fish stocks.

The sustainability of the region's fish stocks was thrust into the spotlight in April when the EC underlined in a green paper the urgent need to reform its Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

In the paper, EU officials pointed to five key failings in the existing CFP, including fleet overcapacity, imprecise policy objectives and a framework that fails to hold industry responsible. The paper pointed out that 88 percent of Europe's fish stocks are overfished, compared to a global average of 25 percent.

Feedback from the seminar, which included presentations from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), will be included in the EC's forthcoming analysis of EU fisheries.

"The commission believes that to achieve a culture of sustainability it is vital to provide more opportunities for direct dialogue between the people who will feel the impact of scientific advice on fish stocks most directly and the scientists involved in making these assessments," said the EC.

A spokesperson for the Pew Environment Group's European marine program, who attended yesterday's meeting, called the seminar "a valuable opportunity for industry to hear feedback on the science behind the commission's recommended catch limits." But the group felt that the meeting also underlined that a "miscommunication" still exists between scientists and fishermen.

"If miscommunication exists between scientists and industry, it certainly exists between [industry] and the public. If the commission is expecting the public to contribute to the CFP reform, then they need to facilitate a broader debate," the spokesperson told SeafoodSource.

World Wildlife Fund Scotland said that while the EC has shown "a degree of willingness to accept scientific advice," the total allowable catch (TAC) it has proposed each year, as well as the TACs set by the EU Council of Fisheries Ministers in December, "have too often exceeded the scientific advice given by ICES."

Louize Hill, marine policy officer for WWF Scotland, said: "We encourage the commission to continue working toward more transparency and science-based stock management and welcome its willingness to bring more stocks under long-term management plans."

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