David Levy – Landing the Blame: Over-fishing in the NE Atlantic 2016 – A Reflection on the NEF Document by Marinet’s Chair – Mar 16

At the start of its analysis — Landing the Blame: Over-fishing in the NE Atlantic 2016 — the New Economic Foundation quantifies the opportunities that could be delivered if nations applied fishing limits according to agreements made within Europe’s CFP.

These agreements are legally binding, but the management of their delivery is unclear, as is the enforcement strategy on individual nations and their Ministers.

NEF identifies that if our seas were properly managed to achieve maximum sustainable yield (MSY) for all fish stocks, we could supply food for an additional 89 million citizens, with additional annual revenue of 1.6 billion euros, and the creation 20,000 new jobs. We could have this within a generation.

Yet when we come to analyse 2016 decisions — the allocation and determination of catch levels, known as ‘TACs’ or “total allowable catch” for each stock/nation — we find that these TAC decisions by Ministers have been made behind closed doors. This makes it difficult to obtain transparency of practice and, equally, who is accountable for the illegality of fishing beyond the limits marked out by scientific advice.

What NEF has managed to do is produce an over-fishing league table.

By a country mile, in tonnage volume the United Kingdom leads other nations with an excess TAC of 90,158 tonnes. Denmark is next with a TAC excess of 52,114 tonnes, followed by Spain with 40,416 tonnes.

So our George Eustice, Defra’s Fisheries Minister, has a lot to answer for — but nobody challenges him and his illegal behaviour.

He would argue that our percentage take is less than other nations, but it is a technical variance compiled after decades of bad management where the UK leads the worst of exploiters.

The leading nations are accumulating massive tonnages of over-fishing, and therefore this is a legal matter which requires action from a European agency to test the veracity of the reformed CFP.

What is concerning is the how frequently deadlines are breached. The CFP actually requires all stocks to be fished sustainably — in accord with scientific advice and MSY — by 2015, and 2020 at the latest. 2020 is rapidly approaching which means MSY for all stocks accompanied by a well-balanced age profile.

The widespread illegal breaching of TACs for 2016 (19 out of 26 species in the Atlantic) is not cause for optimism that the goal will be achieved year on year, with zero non-compliance by 2020.

NEF has provided a clear breakdown of the under-achievement by European nations.

Like scientists and economists in general, the data is provided with no recommendations for solutions. This is the weakness of the presentation and is the estimation of the wrong doers that they can behave illegally for decades to come.

Of 26 NE Atlantic species, 19 species are over-fished with TACs issued beyond scientific advice, amounting to an excess of 332,321 tonnes across all the species.

That’s a fortune of illegally landed, although “officially landed” fish.

The point is that landing these fish makes MSY a dream, and less of an achievable target.


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