63% of catch limits were set above scientific advice
Yesterday, the Council of Fisheries Ministers of the European Union reached an agreement on fishing opportunities for deep-sea species for 2015 and 2016. Although catches will be reduced for many deep-sea stocks, Oceana is deeply disappointed that catch limits were nevertheless set higher than scientifically advised for 63% of stocks, putting these vulnerable species at serious risk.
“The Council’s decision to exceed scientifically advised catch limits for twelve out of nineteen deep-sea stocks is not only far from being responsible, but also runs directly counter to the principles of the new Common Fisheries Policy,” stated Lasse Gustavsson, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe. “Fisheries ministers blatantly ignore that their commitment to responsible exploitation also applies to the deep sea.”
According to Oceana, the Council failed to heed several key recommendations from scientists: fisheries closures for two stocks of roundnose grenadier and red seabream, catch reductions of alfonsinos and black scabbardfish, and only moderate increases in catches of greater forkbeard. On the other hand, the Council agreed to maintain the prohibition on retention of depleted orange roughy and deep-sea sharks. An additional deep-sea fish species, the roughhead grenadier, will now be managed through catch limits, although Oceana regrets these limits have been set without any scientific basis.
The regulation on of EU deep-sea fisheries management, including how catch limits are set, is widely acknowledged to be badly outdated and in need of urgent revision. The European Parliament voted in December 2013 for a series of improvements to management, including the obligation to follow scientific advice in setting catch limits, to protect vulnerable deep-sea ecosystems, and to avoid bycatch of vulnerable species. The file remains stalled in Council, which has yet to finalise its position.