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Alarm Over Fish Stocks

  • August 30th, 2011
  • Posted by EUEditor

greenpeace-giant-trawler.jpgThe Greenpeace organisation i n Europe has issued a rejoinder to urgent  moves by the European Union to conserve stocks of fish, saying it needs to target large-scale industrial fishing first, and implement much tougher quotas.

It describes the European fleet as a major offender in over-fishing, well beyond its home waters.


Making its point the environmental group has been sending out harassment patrols to follow big trawlers that operate in deep water in all the world’s oceans.

In this picture it has an inflatable boat out watching a ship it calls the Dutch “supertrawler” Willem van der Zwan off  Mauritania; a vessel “like a floating factory”,  142 metres long, processing 300 tonnes a day and able to store up to 6,000 tonnes of frozen fish.

It concentrates especially on “Spain’s fishing armada” , see, (30.8.11).

The argument against such ships is that they make up 20% of the fleet but take over 80% of the catches.


damanaki-resize.jpgIn July the EU Maritime and Fisheries Commissioner, Maria Damanaki (picture),put forward a plan for tightening of controls on the catch, especially by scrapping the practice of discarding fish that are caught but do not come within set quotas.

The Commissioner said (13.7.11) that in some areas as much as 60% of the catch was being thrown back.

A market based system was to be implemented, permitting licence holders to trade quotas, and there would also be an expansion of aquaculture -  all with the goal of achieving sustainability, with no more taken out than might be replaced.

“Three-quarters of the EU’s stocks are over-fished and one- third of them are in a worrying state”, the Commissioner said.

See EUAustralia Online, “Contests shaping up to save the whales and fishes”, 15.7.11.


Greenpeace has argued that the plan will not work without removal of the industrial trawlers plying both in European waters and worldwide.

It points out there has been no cap declared on how far quotas might expand, and says the EU should stop Ministers in governments “setting quotas above scientifically recommended levels.”

It would also support the opening of new marine reserves off-limits to fishing.


greenpeace.jpegThe organisation has launched a publication carrying statistics is says include key figures compiled and released by the European Commission; in part:

  • 62% of fish stocks are overfished in the Atlantic and 82% in the Mediterranean (European Commission, 2011).
  • Overfishing costs over €32 billion (A$43.57-billion; 30.8.11) in lost revenue and benefits worldwide every year (World Bank, 2009).
  • The EU fleet is capable of catching two to three times more fish than the stocks are capable of naturally replacing (European Commission, 2008).
  • The EU’s combined catch is the third largest in the world (about 5.1 million tonnes in 2007), after China and Peru (European Commission, 2010).
  • 80% of fishermen in the EU are small scale, coastal fishermen, who only get about 20% of EU quotas. .. (based on European Commission data).
  • Recently, 93% of the cod caught in the North Sea was fished before it could breed (European Commission, 2009).
  • Overfishing has decimated the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna stock to less than 15% of its original size (ICCAT, 2009).
  • Almost one quarter (1.2 million tonnes) of the EU’s catch is fished in international and foreign waters (European Commission, 2008).
  • EU taxpayers annually contribute about €158-million (A$215-million) to secure access to the fishing grounds of other countries (European Commission, 2008).
  • The EU recognises that in most European countries the cost of subsidising and administering fishing exceeds the value of the catches (European Commission, 2009).
  • Although efforts are under way to fight pirate fishing, annual EU imports of illegally caught fish were conservatively estimated in 2007 to be worth €1.1 billion (A$1.49-billion) (European Commission, 2007).


For a reference on never-wholly-successful, but large-scale fisheries management, with quotas, dedicated research programs and  marine reserves, see protection of the UNESCO Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, Australia: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Townsville NQ,, (30.8.11).


Greenpeace Europe, Brussels, “EU floats plan to recover fish stocks but sinks on fleet reductions”, 13.7.11., (30.8.11).

Greenpeace Europe, Brussels, “Turning the tide on European overfishing”, Publication, 12.7.11., (30.8.11).