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Greenpeace shuts down EU fisheries meeting


Brussels, Belgium — Some 200 Greenpeace activists from 14 European countries this morning blocked the seven entrances to the building of the Council of the European Union where EU fisheries ministers were to gather for their annual meeting to discuss fishing quotas. The activists have constructed a wall in front of the building’s main entrance bearing the message “Shut Down until Fish Stocks Recover.”
The Fisheries Council holds its annual meeting today to decide levels of total allowable catches (TACs). The Council’s consistently dismal record provides no basis for expecting that this year’s negotiations will introduce steps towards environmentally- and economically-sustainable fisheries in which biodiversity and fish stocks are maintained.

Greenpeace believes that Europe’s current decision-making arrangements are in need of urgent review and revision.
“The Fisheries Council has been an utter disaster for fisheries,” said Greenpeace EU Marine Policy Advisor Saskia Richartz. “Unless changes are made and power is ceded to Europe’s Environment Ministers, Europe’s fisheries face a biodiversity and economic collapse.”

Since the early 1980s, incompetence on the part of the Fisheries Council has resulted in an alarming decline in fish stocks in European seas. (1) Year after year, Europe’s Fisheries Ministers have ignored scientific advice and recommendations from the European Commission (2) in repeatedly agreeing levels of TACs that have destroyed the biodiversity of Europe’s seas. A recent study, commissioned by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, suggests that European fisheries are amongst the most unsustainable and least profitable in the world. (3)

“Were the European Fisheries Council a private enterprise, its executive directors would have been sacked long ago for inefficiency and negligence,” said Greenpeace Germany’s Oceans Campaigner Iris Menn. “The Fisheries Council has failed to ensure fishing sector profitability, environmental protection, sustainable management and the maintenance of fish stocks. It´s time for new management,” she stated.

Greenpeace believes that future decisions on fishing activities in European seas should be subject to greater public scrutiny and must include the following:

* Member States must create a network of large-scale marine reserves: highly protected areas off-limits to all extractive and destructive activities, including fishing. The network of reserves must be sufficiently large to sustain species and ecological processes over time. Research indicates that between 20 per cent and 50 per cent of sea area should be protected in this way. The deadline by which Member States had to complete such a network passed almost a decade ago, in 1998. Member States, however, have continued to reap short term fisheries benefits without complying with the Community’s conservation laws;
* All total allowable catches must be set at or below the scientifically recommended levels. For all fish stocks outside safe biological limits, fishing pressure must be reduced to very low levels and should be increased slowly thereafter only when recovery is under way. All stocks should eventually be managed below their maximum sustainable yield; and
* Starting from next year, national allocation of the TACs, which must be set in accordance with the above rules, should be made conditional upon meeting EU marine conservation standards, and in particular rules on marine protected areas.

Notes to Editor

(1) Earlier this year, the European Commission reported that “about four-fifths of stocks, i.e. around 80% of stocks, remain outside known safe biological limits. The number of stocks for which a zero catch is advised is roughly stable at about 13. TAC decisions have been on average substantially higher than the annual catches advised by scientists, although the percentage is variable among different stocks. This has led to very small decreases in the impact of fishing. Only three stocks under TACs (North Sea haddock, North Sea saithe and megrims in the Bay of Biscay) are exploited consistently with the commitments made at the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002 about MSY.” (COM(2007)295)

The European Environment Agency reports that between 22 and 53 per cent of the assessed commercially-fished stocks in the NE Atlantic are outside safe limits, with fish stocks in the North Sea in the worst condition (53 per cent are outside safe biological limits). What’s more, these figures mask some of the most tragic losses of marine life – such as the decline of around 90 per cent in large predatory fish like tuna, swordfish and cod. The poor state of European fish stocks is reflected in the progressive decline in fish catches, which have dropped by around 1 million tonnes.

(2) The European Commission has calculated that catches between 2003 and 2007 were, on average, set around 50 per cent above the scientifically recommended level (COM(2007)295).

(3) “Reflections on the Common Fisheries Policy”, report to the General Directorate for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs of the European Commission. Michael Sissenwine and David Symes, July 2007.
Further contact information for reporters to get video, photos or report details

Greenpeace International photo desk. Tel: +44 7801 615 889 Greenpeace International video desk. Tel: +31 646 197 322
Contact information

In Brussels:
Dr Iris Menn, Greenpeace Germany Oceans Campaigner.
Tel: +49 171 888 0023
Saskia Richartz, Greenpeace EU Marine Policy Adviser.
Tel: +32 495 290 028
Francois Chartier, Greenpeace France Oceans Campaigner.
Tel: +33 684 250 828
Romain Chabrol, Greenpeace France Communications Officer. Tel: +33 6 88 8 81827
Michael Kessler, Greenpeace International Communications.
Tel: +34 655 792 699


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