With 81% of European fish stocks now depleted, the Commission wants to limit exploitation of affected species to levels that will allow populations to increase during a “transition period” . It will then bring in fishing quotas calculated to give the highest yields that can be sustained over time – known as “maximum sustainable yield.”

The EU committed itself to restoring fish populations to “MSY” levels by 2015 at the Sustainable Development Summit in 2002, but quotas have so far gone ignored, with the exploitation of depleted species two to five times faster than levels that would guarantee a steady supply.

Instead, fishermen find themselves with lower catches and higher costs due to depleted stocks and the need to go further and spend more time finding the fish in the first place.

Higher numbers of young fish are also caught and thrown dead back into the sea because they are too small, which prevents breeding and accelerates the depletion of stocks.

“Applying the MSY approach under the Common Fisheries Policy will be a central element of the Union’s strategy to restore the sustainability of our fisheries and the competitiveness of our fleets. It will also help us meet the commitment taken along with our international partners to achieve sustainability wherever our fleets are involved,” said fisheries and maritime affairs commissioner Joe Borg.

The commission warned that, in the short term, the policy will mean fishing less and therefore lower employment in the sector, but said that in the long term will improve the industry’s competitiveness.

Goska Romanowicz

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie