Reforming Fisheries in the European Union

Fishing Boat

The European Parliament voted this month to overhaul the European Union’s fisheries policy. The new plans – which are not fully adopted yet – rely on scientific data to determine sustainable levels of catching each species of fish.

Scientific data will be used to determine maximum sustainable yield (MSY). Using MSY, fisheries are capped at the amount of fish that can reproduce in one year. MSY takes into account the breeding age of the fish and the number of those breeding age fish in the wild, the number of fish born, and the number of those fish expected to reach breeding age. Storms and pollution are just two things that can affect the numbers of fish that live to adulthood and such factors would be taken into account.

Other changes include banning fish discards and long-term fish stock management. Fish discards happen when a company is fishing for one species and and pulls in a variety of fish species in the nets. Unwanted fish might be non-commercial species or they might be a species where the season has already closed. Those fish are thrown back into the water. Most discarded fish die.

Long-term fish stock management involves negotiations between nations for multi-year fisheries agreements. Fishing quotas would remain in place for longer times and (hopefully) fewer squabbles between nations would take place.

The EU fleet is able to catch two or three times the amount of fish available under current quotas. Scaling back will be difficult for the large companies in the short term. In the long term, it will be better for all fisheries. If the new plan is put into place by 2015, then by 2020, an estimated 15 million tons more fish will be available and 37,000 new jobs will be created.

Fishing boat photo via Shutterstock

  1. Maria Tadic

    This was really interesting. I recently read an article about how Alaska’s natural fisheries are the best in the world as far as practices. It’s really interesting how they do it. I think they somehow use the salmon’s natural habit.

    1. Heather Carr

      Thanks! There are a few fisheries that are trying to become sustainable. Alaska is one. Several Pacific island nations are also working hard to increase their fish stocks.

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