Marine Conservation Society Press Release
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How Much Longer Can Our Fish Hold Out?22nd December 2005 Cod in the North Sea, Irish Sea and west of Scotland are set to be grossly overfished for another year after EU ministers agreed overnight to ignore scientific advice calling for the closure of these fisheries. Instead the latest round of talks on EU fish quotas ended early this morning with only a 15 % cut in the quotas for these cod fisheries in 2006. In the European Commission’s own words many European cod stocks are in a “truly alarming” state. However, the EC continues to only tinker around the edges of fisheries management policies that have allowed these fish stocks to fall to such perilous levels.
“It is high time that European politicians bit the bullet and heeded the scientific advice to close endangered cod fisheries for their own sake”, said Dr Bryce Beukers-Stewart, Fisheries Policy Officer with the Marine Conservation Society. “Canadian politicians played a similar game with the Newfoundland cod more than 10 years ago and look where that got them”. After the Canadian cod stock collapsed completely in the early 1990s the fishery was finally closed – but it was too late – 15 years later these cod populations have barely recovered at all. One has to wonder how long it will be until our cod go the same way.
In a further blow for sustainability an already inadequate proposal to cut fishing effort for deepsea species by 20 % was reduced to a mere 10 %. Again this decision flies in the face of scientific advice. In October 2005 the International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES) called for a complete overhaul of deepsea fisheries. ICES stated that all their evidence indicates current levels of fishing effort on deepsea fish stocks are much too high – and advised cutting fishing back to very low levels. Slow growth rates, extreme longevity and very low levels of reproduction make many deepsea fish species extremely vulnerable to overfishing – the serial depletion around the world of the deep-sea fish species such as Orange Roughy is testimony to this.
The perilous state of many fish stocks is not just confined to European waters, but other countries around the world have finally realised they can’t ignore the problem any longer. The Australian government recently outlined a package to tackle overfishing by offering to buy back half of the licences for fishing in Australian Commonwealth waters. Likewise, on the back of protecting more than a third of Great Barrier Reef waters in 2004, further proposals to restore fish stocks and the marine environment by creating extensive marine reserves (where commercial fishing will be banned) are sweeping around the coastline of Australia. In response to concerns from fishermen the Federal Environmental Minister, Ian Campbell, admitted the proposals would hit the fishing industry hard. However, he gave the fishermen a stark choice “You can keep putting this off and off if you want, but you’ll end up with a disaster on your hands”. England’s cricketers won back the Ashes this summer by taking a few leaves out of the Australian books. All UK fisheries departments could do worse than follow their example.
For further information:
Dr Bryce Beukers-Stewart, Marine Conservation Society, Fisheries Policy Officer:
Tel: +44 (0)1989 566017
NOTES FOR EDITORS
· The Marine Conservation Society is the UK Charity dedicated to the protection of the marine environment and its wildlife. Since its formation in 1983, MCS has become a recognised authority on marine and coastal conservation and is regularly consulted by Government for its views on a range of marine issues. MCS provides information and guidance on many aspects of marine conservation and produces the annual Good Beach Guide, as well as promoting public participation in volunteer projects and surveys such as Adopt-a-Beach, Seasearch and Basking Shark Watch. It has also published the consumer guide to eating sustainably captured fish The Good Fish Guide and the associated website: www.fishonline.org. For more information: www.mcsuk.org
ICES is an international science organisation studying North Atlantic marine ecosystems and the living resources they sustain. It works with experts from its 19 Member Countries including the Russian Federation and the USA. One of the tasks of ICES is the provision of scientific information on effects of fisheries and advice on fisheries management in the North-East Atlantic in response to requests by, for example, NEAFC and the European Commission. They advise the European Commission every year on status of stocks and quotas. The ICES reports (ACFM 2000/2001/2002/2003/2004/2005) are available on the web: www.ices.dk
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