Spain, Ireland, Portugal, Netherlands and Germany top the “overfishing League” table

The New Economics Foundation (NEF) and Our Fish believe they have revealed Ireland is the second worst offender for overfishing behind Spain.

The news from the (NEF) and Our Fish comes as both organisations jointly campaign for the EU and its Member States to include ending overfishing in their climate laws, after a new study found that EU countries have overfished by 8.78 million tonnes during the last 20 years.

According to the historical analysis released by the NEF, Spain, Ireland, Portugal, Netherlands and Germany top the “overfishing League” table, by gaining the highest percentage of quotas above scientifically advised levels for sustainable limits over a 20-year period (35%, 24%, 23%, 23% 22% respectively), while the UK, Denmark and Spain have received the most in terms of excess tonnage (1.78M tonnes, 1.48M tonnes and 1.04M tonnes respectively).

“If the EU delivered on its commitment to end overfishing and rebuild damaged fish stocks to sustainable levels, it could create over 20,000 new jobs, provide food for 89 million people, and generate an extra €1.6 billion in annual revenue”, said Griffin Carpenter, Senior Researcher at the New Economics Foundation. 

“Instead, every year, fisheries ministers have set fishing limits above the best available scientific advice, even going so far as to ignore the EU’s own legal deadline of 2020. To deliver sustainable seas, EU fisheries ministers must end this practice, and respect EU law, by following the scientific advice.”

The latest analysis, part of the Landing the Blame report by the New Economics Foundation on the agreed annual fishing limits (total allowable catch or TAC) for commercial fish stocks in EU waters, discovered that between 2001 and 2020, on average, six out of ten TACs were set above scientific advice. While the percentage by which TACs were set above advice declined throughout this period (from 39% to 10% in all EU waters), the proportion of TACs set above advice has had a lesser decline, from eight out of ten TACs to five out of ten.

“As the COVID crisis has clearly demonstrated, our systematic destruction of nature is drastically threatening the health of our planet, and the health of people. NEF’s Landing the Blame analysis brings home the stark truth that by overfishing almost nine million tonnes of fish in 20 years, EU fisheries ministers continue to radically undermine the one ecosystem that provides us with the best protection against climate change – the ocean,” said Rebecca Hubbard, Programme Director at Our Fish. “The European Commission and EU leaders must wake up to the seriousness of this situation – the potential for the ocean to shift from friend to foe if we do not ease pressure on it – by enshrining the ending of overfishing and restoration of ocean health in the EU Green Deal, and by prioritising finalising the Biodiversity and Farm to Fork Strategies as a matter of urgency.

League table

Spain, Ireland, Portugal, Netherlands and Germany top the “overfishing League” table

The top three Member States from the NEF and Our Fish League for Overfishing are:

Spain
  • On average, Spain received quotas 35% above scientific advice, placing Spain first on the ‘Overfishing League Table’.
  • From 2001 to 2020 Spain set 1,040,000 tonnes of quota above scientific advice, placing Spain third.
  • For Spain, 23 quotas (out of 49 assessed) were set above scientific advice in 2020. If this quota is used, the 2020 deadline to end overfishing will be missed.
  • Some quotas are consistently set above advice including pollack in the Celtic Sea, whiting and pollack in the Bay of Biscay, and hake in the Cantabrian Sea.
  • The Spanish fishing industry has heavily lobbied the EU Council for higher quotas, even accessing the closed-door Council negotiations using press passes.

Based on these discoveries, Lydia Chaparro, marine ecologist at the ENT Foundation, states that “due to the current challenges faced by industry, it’s more important than ever to preserve the viability of their business by securing sustainable fisheries. For this reason, we ask the EU – and the Spanish Government – to significantly increase their efforts to end overfishing. In practice, this implies that, by 2021, all fishing opportunities, including those for deep-sea species, must be established according to the sustainable levels scientifically advised. ” Chaparro adds that “given the delicate situation generated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government must establish measures to favour the part of the fleet that provides the greatest social benefit and generates the least environmental impact, thus favouring the transition to a sustainable and low impact fishing sector”.

Ireland
  • On average, quotas were set 24% above scientific advice in Ireland’s favour, placing Ireland second on the ‘Overfishing League Table’ behind Spain.
  • From 2001 to 2020 Ireland set 765,000 tonnes of quota above scientific advice, placing Ireland sixth in tonnes.
  • For Ireland, 28 quotas (out of 53 assessed) were set above scientific advice for 2020. If this quota is used, the 2020 deadline to end overfishing will be missed.
  • Some quotas are consistently set above advice including pollack in the Celtic Sea, herring to the west of Scotland and Ireland.
  • The Irish fishing industry and government work in close coordination, with Minister Creed expliciting citing an industry representative as shaping his behaviour.

“This is shocking evidence of the sustained and sought after overexploitation of an incredibly valuable natural resource. This is not protecting coastal communities, it is engineered biodiversity loss, putting livelihoods and planetary health at risk. As Irish political parties negotiate a new government, this report should serve as evidence of the causes of the biodiversity and climate emergency, and exemplify how responsible fisheries management could restore the marine environment and the communities who rely on it”, said Mike Walker, advisor to Our Fish.

Jointly Portugal and the Netherlands are tied at with receiving quotas 23% above scientific advice. 

Portugal
  • On average, Portugal received quotas 23% above scientific advice, placing Portugal third on the ‘Overfishing League Table’ behind Spain and Ireland.
  • From 2001 to 2020 Portugal set 212,000 tonnes of quota above scientific advice.
  • For Portugal, 9 quotas (out of 24 assessed) were set above scientific advice in 2020. If this quota is used, the 2020 deadline to end overfishing will be missed.
  • Some quotas are consistently set above advice including hake, sole and plaice in theCantabrian Sea and Atlantic Iberian waters.
  • For the past several years the quota for southern horse mackerel, which Portugal is the biggest recipient of, has followed scientific advice and biomass and catches have grown.

“Portugal must leave behind its past as a big, long-distance fishing nation, and focus on the sustainability of the fisheries and marine resources close to its own shores”, said Goncalo Carvalho, Executive Coordinator of Sciaena. “Fishing in line with – or even below – the scientific advice is not only the safest way to ensure a sustainable fishing sector, but also one of the best and most direct ways to increase the resilience of its marine ecosystems and contribute to countering climate change.”

Netherlands
  • On average, the Netherlands set quotas 23% above scientific advice, placing the Netherlands fourth.
  • From 2001 to 2020 the Netherlands received 847,000 tonnes of quota above scientific advice, placing the Netherlands fourth.
  • For the Netherlands, 23 quotas (out of 55 assessed) were set above scientific advice in 2020. If this quota is used, the 2020 deadline to end overfishing will be missed.
  • Some quotas are consistently set above advice sole and plaice in the Celtic Sea, shrimp in the North Sea, and herring to the west of Scotland and Ireland.
  • The Dutch fishing industry has heavily lobbied the EU Council for higher quotas, even accessing the closed-door Council negotiations using press passes.
  • The Dutch fishing fleet has the second highest wages in the EU with an average FTE wage of 78,000 EUR.

Source: Our Fish

NEF put Ireland as Second Worst Offender for Overfishing behind Spain

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