European Countries Found to Be Overfishing

Researchers find that EU nations are setting catch limits above scientifically justifiable levels.
A fisher empties fish into the hold of a trawler. (Photo: Monty Rakusen/Getty Images)
Feb 17, 2016· 1 MIN READ
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

Decades of overfishing led the European Union to set annual catch quotas to ensure fish populations weren’t depleted beyond recovery.

But according to a new report, some countries are allowing their fleets consistently to catch more fish than they should.

Ireland, Spain, and Sweden were the worst offenders, according to the nonprofit group New Economics Foundation.

Those countries’ fishing industry representatives are reportedly setting fishing limits on target species more than 20 percent higher than what scientists recommend.

The United Kingdom, Denmark, and Spain topped the list in total tonnage of fish taken above set quotas, researchers found. The U.K. topped the list, taking more than 90,000 more tons than recommended.

The report builds on New Economic Foundation’s previous findings, which analyzed fishing quotas set from 2001 to 2015.

RELATED: The Solution to the Global Overfishing Crisis Is Around the Corner

Griffin Carpenter, coauthor of the report and an economics modeler with New Economics Foundation, said there is a lack of transparency when closed-door negotiations between commercial fishing industry leaders and quota-setting officials occur.

“Unfortunately, the practice of setting quotas above scientific advice continues, and the 2016 quotas show no progress from the year before, with seven out of every 10 quotas set above advice and total quotas 13 percent above advice,” he said.

The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea advises the European Commission on the maximum catch limits for fish stocks.

“The maximum catch limits for each stock...would still allow for the maximum sustainable yield, that is, the largest amount of fish that could be caught in perpetuity,” Carpenter said.

When EU fishing ministers meet to negotiate quota limits they enter a closed-door session with that advice but consistently leave the negotiations with catch limits that exceed those limits.

“Often ministers will exit the negotiations and make a statement to the media,” Carpenter said. “Overwhelmingly the statement will be something along the lines of a ‘winning’ quota for the fishing industry. This short-term-versus-long-term thinking is of course typical of a lot of activity we see in political decision making.”

According to a recent study by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Europe’s fish are in serious decline. The study found that more than 90 species of marine fish in continental waters are threatened with extinction, mainly from overfishing.