NGOs point out Rio deal more ambitious on MSY targets than EU Fish Ministers

The outcomes from the recent Rio+20 global conference on sustainable development have been widely criticised for lacking ambition. But campaigners point out that the commitment to intensify efforts to achieve MSY by 2015 is superior to the agreement made by the EU Ministers.

Last Saturday the 188 participating countries in the Rio+20 global conference on sustainable development adopted a compromise declaration entitled, “The future we want”. The outcome has been widely condemned as being far too weak and lacking concrete objectives and measures to tackle environmental degradation and poverty.

The Oceans section of the Declaration, although equally disappointing to many because the final content was watered down, does reiterate the global commitment to halt overfishing. Rio+20 calls on countries:

To intensify our efforts to meet the 2015 target as agreed to in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation to maintain or restore stocks to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield on an urgent basis. In this regard we further commit to urgently take the measures necessary to maintain or restore all stocks at least to levels that can produce the maximum sustainable yield, with the aim of achieving these goals in the shortest time feasible, as determined by their biological characteristics. To achieve this we commit to urgently develop and implement science-based management plans, including by reducing or suspending fishing catch and effort commensurate with the status of the stock.

Campaigners have pointed out that this Rio commitment to achieve MSY by 2015, that is achieving sustainable fishing levels, is stronger than the agreement reached by EU Fisheries Ministers at their meeting earlier this month. The Ministers opted for a more flexible and gradual approach to achieving MSY in their “General Approach” on the CFP reform.

The Common Fisheries Policy shall …. aim to ensure that exploitation of living marine biological resources restores and maintains populations of harvested species at least at levels which can produce the maximum sustainable yield.  This exploitation rate shall be achieved by 2015, where possible, and by 2020 for all stocks at the latest.

Greenpeace is highly critical of the lack of ambition in the EU position: “Nothing should speak louder to EU fisheries ministers than the voices of the global community of countries and stakeholders that met in Rio last week. They have been clear in calling on all countries to intensify action to restore the abundance of fish in the sea to levels that can support sustainable catches and to do so by 2015. This requires immediate reductions in the amount of fish caught and puts the Council’s feeble commitment to drag this process out over the coming decade to shame. No EU government should continue to tolerate the fact that France, Spain and other countries put short term profits above the goal of long-term sustainability,” says Saskia Richartz.

The Fisheries Commissioner, Maria Damanaki, stated in a recent Twitter post: “Maintaining 2015 as deadline to bring fish stocks at sustainable levels is an ambitious goal but we can’t put it off any longer” repeating the Commission’s aim to maintain the 2015 deadline, as outlined in the Commission’s CFP reform proposal from July last year.

Read the NGO briefing on the Council Common Approach

Julie Cator 



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