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Political short-termism triumphs at Fisheries Council

Brussels, 19th December 2007. Political short-termism triumphed again last night when the Fisheries Council continued its annual tradition of ignoring scientific advice and authorising continued over-fishing.

This tradition explains in-part why a recent report (see below) commissioned by the European Commission's Directorate-General for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs claims that the EU is “doing worse than the rest of the world in terms of conservation of fish stocks”. Another problem highlighted recently in a damning report by the EU Court of Auditors (see also below) is the lack of sufficient information about the state of the fish stocks - the necessary basis for setting correct quotas - due to the fact that fishermen and Member States do not report all of their landings.

Cod is a clear example where EU management fails year-after-year. Recent scientific advice called for a closure of directed fisheries on cod stocks in the Irish Sea, the Celtic Sea and in the Kattegat to allow for recovery of these depleted stocks, but the Council limited its action to a slight reduction of quota, ranging between 8-18%. The early signs of a recovery of the cod stock in the North Sea, caused by a boom of young cod born in 2005, prompted the Council to adopt an 11% increase in the quota, but they failed to accompany this by compulsory measures to protect young cod. A limitation of the huge amount of by-catch and discards of young cod is needed to give these juveniles a chance to reach maturity and to rebuild the stock; the lack of such measures may see an early end to a long hoped for recovery.

Other examples of a total neglect of scientific advice are the Council decisions to increase the TACs for the southern hake stock and the Celtic Sea plaice stock by 15-18%, where scientists had recommended a closure of the fishery and a 42% reduction respectively. Ministers even failed to stick to their own earlier agreement on a multi annual management plan for plaice and sole; they reduced the quota for the North Sea by only 15% even though the plan specifically calls for more drastic cuts if the stocks fall below the safe biological minimum, which is currently the case.

"Reflections on the Common Fisheries Policy": A Report to the General Directorate for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs of the European Commission (July 2007).
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European Court of Auditors report on CFP and control (Special Report No 7/2007) (December 2007).
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For the European Commission's press release on the Court of Auditors report
click here