Dec 14 2012
European ministers have approved the catching of millions more tonnes of fish than scientists have advised over the past nine years, a report has shown.
Fisheries ministers, who meet annually to decide the quotas for stocks across Europe, have only strictly followed scientific advice on fisheries in 13% of their decisions, the report by WWF found.
On average, quotas have been set 45% higher than levels recommended by scientists, which means ministers have allowed the overfishing of more than 6.2 million tonnes of fish beyond levels proposed to ensure that stocks are safely maintained.
Almost half the stocks in the North East Atlantic are judged to be over-fished, while the figure is as high as 80% in the Mediterranean.
WWF is calling on members of the European Parliament voting on reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, which governs the industry across the EU, next week to put requirements to follow scientific advice at the heart of stocks management.
The conservation charity's report accused governments of systematically ignoring scientific advice and setting quotas for short-term political and economic gain at the expense of long-term sustainability.
The report also said the EU had spent £6 million on scientific advice since 2003, that ministers were not then taking into account.
Recent analysis suggests the potential benefits to the EU fishing industry of managing stocks sustainably could be £1.7 billion annually.
WWF wants MEPs to ensure that the reformed policy includes goals to manage fish stocks sustainably by 2015.
Fisheries need to be managed through multi-year plans and by stakeholders getting round the table on a regional level to reach agreement, to limit the annual horse-trading over quotas in Brussels and ensure stocks recover to healthy levels.