For the first time, a new study has calculated the social and economic value of recovering fisheries. Research from Oceana reveals that the value of fish landings could increase by €2.4bn annually if EU fisheries are healthy and well managed over the next 10 years.

The findings also suggest that net profits of the fishing and processing sectors would rise by €965m a year. Campaigners are calling on EU policy makers to drop the short-term approach to setting fish catch limits and instead take urgent action to put an end to overfishing in European waters.

“Sustainability is good for business,” said Oceana in Europe executive director Lasse Gustavsson. “In less than ten years, we can fish almost 60% more in Europe sustainably, boost EU GDP by nearly €5bn and create more than 90,000 jobs.

“We need to do three things: manage fisheries following scientific advice, protect essential fish habitats and stop destructive and illegal fishing. If we do so, the future for EU fisheries will be bright again.”

Previous research from Oceana has highlighted that almost two-thirds of European fish stocks are overfished. But if managed sustainably, catches in EU waters could reportedly increase by an additional two million tonnes a year.

The report underlines that the UK would be a key beneficiary, benefitting from a €367m boost to the economy. While public subsidies to the fishing industry currently amount to at least €935m a year, the study estimates that in a recovery scenario, at least €700m could be saved or reinvested from taxpayers’ money.

EU fisheries ministers are due to negotiate the 2018 fishing limits for the Baltic Sea and North-East Atlantic in October and December respectively.

Sustainable fishing saga

The results of the study arrive at a time when the issue of sustainable fishing is dominating CSR headlines. Last week, major retailers Tesco, Asda and Morrisons were accused of “misleading consumers” by selling “unsustainable tuna” sourced from two Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fisheries.

The On The Hook coalition of scientists, retailers, politicians and campaigners including Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall claim that products such as Princes tuna and Tesco’s own brand label are sourced from fisheries which run widespread unsustainable fishing practices that leads to dangerous bycatch levels.

The campaign group has also raised concerns about MSC “developing commercial partnerships” with global retailers. Evidence suggests that Walmart pressured the Council to certify products from larger fisheries to carry the MSC logo in their corporate interest. 

These allegations came a fortnight after On the Hook accused the world’s biggest fishery of “betraying” consumers over its sustainability. According to the group, boats at the MSC-certified Western and Central Pacific fishery use unsustainable methods to catch skipjack tuna, the type most commonly found in cans on supermarket shelves. 

George Ogleby

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