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December 17, 2010

The EU must start to fish responsibly now!!

MADRID, Dec 16, 2010 (IPS) - The loss of marine biodiversity is hurtling forward at an unprecedented rate. At present, the FAO calculates that nearly 80 percent of the world’s fishery resources are fully exploited, overexploited or depleted. Furthermore, marine scientists have suggested that if the current pace of exploitation continues, all fish stocks will have collapsed or disappeared by 2048.



Measures put in place to manage marine resources have failed miserably. They have not only driven oceans into a critical state from an environmental perspective, but have also taken a socioeconomic toll on people and economies around the world. Eight percent of the global population supports itself directly or indirectly through the fishing industry, and over one billion people from the world’s poorest countries depend on fish as their main source of animal protein.

The European Commission acknowledges that 88 percent of stocks for which data exist are being exploited above sustainable levels. Meanwhile, our taste for fish continues to grow, and the biggest challenge that we must now face is how to balance our growing appetite with the proper management of the very oceans that provide for us. The EU has a responsibility to its fishers, its citizens and future generations, to reverse its tendency to overexploit and badly manage our resources.

A comprehensive approach - tackling the factors that contribute to the destruction of marine ecosystems, which include overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution and climate change - is essential for turning the tide on the state of European (and global) oceans and fisheries.

The simple solution to overfishing is to fish less and more responsibly, and to start making changes now. By reducing catches today and fulfilling the EU’s commitment to achieve "maximum sustainable yield" by 2015, fishing stocks will be given a chance to recover, thereby increasing tomorrow’s fishing opportunities by up to 80 percent. Unfortunately it is not only a matter of reducing quotas, but also of limiting fleet capacity, enforcing gear selectivity, curbing illegal fishing, developing scientifically sound management plans, and creating marine sanctuaries where endangered populations can rebuild and thrive again.

One logical place to begin is curbing fishing practices that lead to high by- catch and discards rates. Every year, 7.3 million tonnes of catches worldwide are discarded - an amount close to the entire African continent’s annual seafood consumption.

In Europe, the news is just as bad. Recently, disturbing - though not surprising - reports reveal that upwards of 1/4 (some estimate 1/2) of North Sea catches are thrown back into the water, dead or dying. 



Read the rest of this article at the IPS News.

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