State of EU fish stocks: No improvement in the Mediterranean, but some good news in the North Sea

Some fish stocks are slowly recovering in the Northeast Atlantic but 95 percent of fish stocks in the Mediterranean are overfished, scientists said Tuesday at an annual Commission meeting about the state of fish stocks and fisheries in European waters.

Watch the video of the meeting, with the scientists’ presentations

95 percent of the fish stocks in the Mediterranean and Black Seas are overfished (which means catches are higher than they should be in order to make the fish stocks grow to sustainable stock sizes), said Dr. Massimiliano Cardinale, chair of the STECF expert working group on Mediterranean Sea stocks.

Two different scientific bodies (STECF and GFCM) have come to similar conclusions in their assessments. Scientists see no improvements for any species or areas. Overall catches would have to decrease with 45 to 51 percent in order to reach sustainable catch levels (Fmsy).

There has been a small decrease in fishing effort (measured in engine power or tonnage), but this has not lead to any decrease in fishing pressure. In order to reduce overfishing, fishermen would have to use more selective gear, Massimiliano Cardinale said.

The good news for the Mediterranean is that the state of knowledge is improving. New methods each year lead to higher quality stock assessments.

> Download the presentation by Massimiliano Cardinale

There has been an improved situation for many fish stocks in the Northeast Atlantic during the last decade, said Dr. Carmen Fernandez, vice-chair of the ICES advisory committee. In general, fishing mortality is decreasing and fish stocks are slowly growing. The proportion of fish stocks which are being fished at sustainable levels is increasing.

There are some significant exceptions, however. For example, the biomass of the cod stocks in the North Sea and Skagerrak are still smaller than the safe biological limits. Furthermore, there is still a lack of data for many fish stocks.

> Download the presentation by Carmen Fernandez

2011 was a relatively good year for the EU fishing sector. The fleet got smaller and landed less fish, but managed to become more profitable. Small scale vessels using static fishing gear continue to be more profitable than large vessels using trawlers.

> Download the presentation by John Anderson

Watch the seminar as video on demand on the Commission website.

State of European fish stocks, september 2012

Axel Naver

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