In an open letter sent out to EU Fisheries Ministers, Seas At Risk and the Fisheries Secretariat have called on Ministers to be very cautious when setting catch limits for deep-sea fisheries where stock data is unavailable.
At next week’s EU Fisheries Council meeting, Ministers will primarily agree on quotas for deep-sea fish stocks for the next two years, but also discuss how fisheries science can be improved in the context of CFP reform.
Deep-sea species are particularly vulnerable to exploitation due to their biological characteristics and the lack of reliable data is a major problem. It is currently impossible to determine the state of most populations, let alone what catch level could be considered ‘sustainable’. Still, scientists state that the EU’s entire deep-sea catch comes from stocks ‘outside safe biological limits’ and advise reduced catches for all deep-sea stocks.
In such circumstances, the EU is obliged under several UN instruments to take a precautionary approach, including temporary suspension of the fishery until measures are in place that ensure sustainable exploitation. However, the European Commission has proposed very limited catch reductions for most of the deep-sea fisheries.
Parts of the Commission proposal are simply not in line with recent talk about following scientific advice and ministers are unlikely to follow our call for more cautious measures.
The lunch discussions on CFP reform will most likely address the role of partnerships between fishers and scientists for improvement of fisheries data and management measures, as this was the focus of a recent Belgian Presidency conference in Ostend.
The recommendations we have sent out to the EU Fisheries Ministers are backed up by detailed information that you can find in the annexes below.