If ending overfishing sounds like a no-brainer, that is because it is, writes Senator Grace O’Sullivan
In 2013, during Ireland’s EU presidency, European ministers signed up to an ambitious reform of the common fisheries policy, committing to end overfishing by 2015 where possible, and by 2020 at the latest. The 2015 deadline was missed. We cannot afford to miss 2020.
Overfishing has become the accepted norm in European waters. Last December, ministers set 57 fishing limits above the advised maximum sustainable levels, and 40 per cent of fish stocks in the Atlantic and Baltic continue to be overfished. Ireland is one of the worst perpetrators in the Atlantic, according to the New Economics Foundation, a British think tank.
Ireland is one of the worst perpetrators in the Atlantic, according to the New Economics Foundation, a British think tank.
For too long, EU fisheries ministers have been influenced by a narrow focus on short-term profits, coupled with a lack of political will. The same, it seems, is the case with successive Irish governments.
Overfishing jeopardises the livelihoods of those who rely on healthy fish stocks. Those who claim that we cannot afford to stop it should take note: the World Bank estimated that better management of global fisheries would unlock $83 billion (€70 billion) revenues worldwide. Better management means fishing at “maximum sustainable yield”. This allows fish stocks to return to healthy levels, more resilient to climate change and plastic pollution. Where responsible fishing limits have been set and enforced, stocks have flourished.
Those who claim that we cannot afford to stop it should take note: the World Bank estimated that better management of global fisheries would unlock $83 billion (€70 billion) revenues worldwide.
This means more fish to catch, fewer subsidies and fewer risky trips in bad weather for fishermen. If ending overfishing sounds like a no-brainer, that is because it is.
In coming months, Karmenu Vella, the European Union fisheries commissioner, will meet European ministers to set fishing limits for 2019. At a recent conference in Brussels, he said: “Ending overfishing makes environmental, social and economic sense. The question is not whether we can afford to act. The real question is how can we afford not to?”
That is why nine ocean advocates wrote to Mr Vella last month, asking him to propose limits that would end EU overfishing. That is why I am asking Michael Creed, Ireland’s minister for the marine, to not set fishing limits far above sustainable levels. The future of our fisheries depends upon his political courage, and that of his fellow ministers. They have the chance to safeguard the health of our ocean and that of the communities that depend upon it.
This opinion piece originally appeared in The Times Ireland Edition.
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