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article imageAre Europe's fishermen catching too many fish?

By Tim Sandle     Jan 7, 2016 in Environment
Europe’s waters have seen decades of overfishing. This has led to a decline in stocks such as cod, as well as other fish populations being depleted faster than they can recover. On this basis, reform is needed, experts say.
This is the opinion of a recent editorial in the science journal Nature. The opinion piece points out that European policy makers, in 2013, signed a declaration that fishing patterns would be based on detailed scientific advice. This advice would then inform about the setting of annual fishing quotas. The technical term for quotas is “total allowable catches” (TACs).
The Nature editorial points out that fishing quotas are not being handed out based on scientific data, or with any real focus on preserving fish stocks; instead, the "interests" of each member state are dominating. So, if the scientific evidence was that Norway downscale fishing for cod in its waters, this would not be completely adhered to by the Norwegian government because of its internal economy and the need to provide fishing opportunities for its trawler crews. There is a dilemma between protecting fish stocks and the economic consequences for a country and the social impact on the livelihoods of those who catch fish.
Because of a non-science-led policy, cod populations in the Kattegat Sea, waters that fall between Denmark and Sweden, are dangerously low. Although cod numbers are rising, and the status of the fish has moved from "red" to "amber," as Digital Journal reported last year, the population remains far from sustainable.
Vessel fishing illegally for Patagonian toothfish in waters south of Australia  being inspected by t...
Vessel fishing illegally for Patagonian toothfish in waters south of Australia, being inspected by the Australian navy.
Australian Customs and Border Protection Service/European Commission
An additional report indicates that, in general, Europe has been "over-fishing" for certain types of fish at levels 20 percent above the TAC recommendations. Overfishing tends to occur in waters where the numbers of fish are high and where the waters are shared by more than two countries; the inference being the competitive edge spurs overfishing.
In related fishing news, a new rule has come into effect this year which requires fishermen targeting certain demersal species like haddock, sole and plaice, to land all their catch. This is designed to stop the practice of throwing fish back, dead, overboard.
More about Overfishing, Fish, Fishermen, Cod