Dr Jane Lubchenco, the US Under Secretary for Oceans, met Wednesday with the Fisheries Committee in the European Parliament.
Two weeks ago, it was announced that six more fish stocks had been rebuilt in US waters in 2011. As a result, the profitability in the sector is improving, and it is estimated that rebuilding America’s 45 remaining over-exploited fish stocks could generate an extra $31 billion a year and half a million jobs.
While many member states in the EU are still opposing a speedy recovery of fish stocks, the USA found the political will to end overfishing in 2006, when a law was adopted that requires decision-makers to follow scientific advice when setting catch limits.
The US reform was controversial, and because it required short-term sacrifice from many fishermen it met much of the same opposition that the EU reform is facing today.
“We’re seeing the benefits today but it was challenging at the time,” Jane Lubchenco told members of the Fisheries Committee.
The transition into sustainable fisheries, which involves a period when fishermen have to fish less, “is a real issue that needs to be addressed,” Jane Lubchenco said. In many cases in the USA, there were economic packages to do buy-outs. A system of transferable catch shares has also allowed fishermen that are not doing so well to be bought out, Lubchenco said.
Eight regional fisheries management councils, involving different stakeholders, ensures a regionalised system of decision-making in the USA, much like the regionalisation being discussed in the current CFP reform in the EU.
Measures to end overfishing are clearly working in the US, Jane Lubchenco told MEPs: “Thanks to strong legislation and the sacrifices of fishermen, we are ending overfishing. ‘I can finally see light at the end of the tunnel,’ one fisherman said to me recently.”