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EU ministers have set 20% higher fishing quotas than recommended

Staff writer |
Over the past 15 years European Union ministers have set fishing quotas that are above scientific advice by 20 percent, which has led to overfishing and to significant economic loss.

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This is according to a study of the New Economics Foundation (NEF). The authors of the NEF investigation emphasized that even though EU ministers are provided with scientific advice by International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), covering most commercial fish stocks under quota management in the North-East Atlantic, many total allowable catches TACs for the EU fishing fleets are set above scientific recommendations.

According to the study, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands are the member states that overfish the most and negotiate the largest increase to their fishing quota, exceeding scientific advice by 37 percent, 37 percent and 26 percent, respectively.

Certain improvements are being made, since the amount of quota set above advice has declined from 33 percent in 2001 to 7 percent in 2015, but last year 30 quotas were still set at least 50 percent above advice.

The NEF study recognizes the role of third countries is an important consideration when discussing EU TACs. These third countries - the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Norway and Russia - bring additional stakeholders to the negotiations with vested interests.

It is not uncommon for third countries to leave or avoid negotiations altogether and set their own chosen TAC unilaterally – most notably in the prolonged "mackerel war" between the EU and Norway and Iceland.

NEF scientists pointed out that EU Ministers will have yet another opportunity to halt this 15-year trend in overfishing when they meet on December 14 and 15 to negotiate the levels at which fishing quotas for 2016 will be set.

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