European fisheries see stock improvement

Fishing mortality has reduced and stocks are growing in Europe, making it a more profitable industry for fishermen, said the European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella.

Speaking at a seminar on the state of European fish stocks, Vella said that, in general, fishing mortality has reduced and stocks are growing, making it a more profitable industry for fishermen. However, despite this good news, he reiterated that further efforts are needed when it comes to the Mediterranean.

Europêche welcomed Vella’s speech and the words from the scientific community. The group said that the scientific data presented showed an increase in the number of fish stocks being fished in accordance with the maximum sustainable yield (MSY), more robust stocks and the prospect of higher yield.

The seminar’s panel explained that many stocks have recovered and have delivered stable and sustainable catches showing that management over the years have been successful. Stocks such as northern hake, cod and plaice in the North Sea and sprat, herring and plaice in the Baltic have said to have flourished, and across all “ecoregions”, a decrease in fishing mortality and an increase in stock levels has been observed for demersal, flatfish and pelagic stocks.

However, as Eskil Kirkegaard, an ICES-scientist, pointed out that scientists are still unable to explain the situation with stocks such as sole in the Irish Sea and nephrops in the North Sea, which have both seen a decrease in fishing mortality that has not been reflected in the stock size. This means that when calculating fishing mortality, other factors have to be taken into account such as species interactions and other human activities.

“It is essential that the positive trends and advice we have seen today in many stocks are translated into positive quotas,” managing director of Europêche, Kathryn Stack said. “This is essential if we are to attempt to tackle the problem of choke species. For example, hake has exploded in the North Sea yet we have not seen the same increase reflected in the advice; a modest increase would actually increase choke species.”

The scientists also agreed that more work needs to be done in the Mediterranean but that only 15 stocks were assessed this year which may make it difficult to draw real conclusions. Fishing mortality is still very high and, Europêche said, the area would benefit from a possible TAC system for small pelagics and management plans in line with the CFP.