18th December 2019 | Climate Change, Marine, Press Releases

Overfishing past 2020 is not logical, nor legal – O’Sullivan


Green Party MEP Grace O’Sullivan has expressed disappointment as agreement was reached early this morning on new fishing quotas. The Ireland South MEP, who is the Greens’ coordinator on the European Parliament’s PECH (fisheries) Committee, said:

“These quotas will make fishing unsustainable into the future. Overfishing past 2020 is illegal. We all agreed that in 2013 when we reformed the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and set an end to overfishing by next year. We did this because otherwise, stocks would continue to collapse and fishers would be out of a job.”

With many catch levels set above what the best available science says stocks can maintain, fisheries ministers have failed to meet the target they set themselves in 2013, to get all stocks at sustainable levels of fishing by 2020. This was an integral part of the reformed EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

In the waters around Ireland, the Agrifish Council ministers agreed to increase the number of stocks managed under sustainable catch limits from 59 to 62. This is small progress and not enough in face of the pressures so many stocks are facing.

Grace O’Sullivan: “Six years ago, when the last quotas were set, the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council said they would put sustainability at the heart of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy, by vowing to end overfishing by 2020. Today, those promises have been broken.

“While some further progress has been made on realising the reality for stocks in Irish waters, it is very disappointing that other stocks will continue to be overfished. For almost two decades now, scientists have been saying there should be no catches of vulnerable stocks, but ministers have failed to listen to the advice or give these stocks some chance of recovery.

Overfishing is a climate issue

For decades now, huge trawlers have been making a desert of many parts of the ocean, while bottom trawlers destroy seafloor habitats. Healthy fish stocks play a crucial role in regulating the global climate through their interaction with the carbon chain in the oceans.

Grace O’Sullivan: “Just as fish stocks are being disrupted by sea temperatures increasing far faster than we have seen on the land, overfishing makes the problem worse and further lowers the seas natural ability to mitigate global warming.”

Small fishers hurt worst

While today’s decision sets only the EU level quotas for stocks, the national allocation of quota, which is also meant to respect the CFP’s principle of facilitating access to smaller fishing boats, is being flouted in Ireland. While statistics are not publicly available, Irish small fishers’ organisation the Irish Islands Marine Resources Organisation (IIMRO) have estimated that small vessels (under 12 metres) receive less than 1% of the Irish allocation.

Grace O’Sullivan: “Ireland’s small boats have access to under 1% of the quota, despite making up the bulk of the numbers of the Irish boats at sea. These fishers need to be supported into the future as we transition to more sustainable fishing practices.”