Depleted fish stocks can’t wait. The EU and Norway need to commit to ending overfishing now
This week, in a quiet street in the Norwegian harbour town of Bergen, officials from EU member states and Norway will hole up in the Fiskeridirektoratet, or Fisheries Directorate, to decide the size of the fish pie to get divided out between them from so-called “shared stocks.” This “consultation,” as it is known, happens away from public scrutiny. Yet, fishing industry lobbyists are allowed in where they get to cosy up to delegates, while civil society representatives are - quite literally - left out in the cold. These annual gatherings are even more secretive than the EU AGRIFISH council meetings, which were recently investigated by the EU Ombudsman and found to be lacking in transparency.
EU-Norway consultations consistently result in agreements to continue overfishing. This is in no small part due to a bewilderingly flawed approach: by assuming the scientific advice for maximum sustainable catches as a starting point and then negotiating upwards. The EU committed to phase out overfishing under the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) by 2015 or, at the absolute latest, by 2020. Yet while the act of catching too many fish occurs at sea, it is inside meetings like this where overfishing is shamelessly agreed upon and approved.
On 16 December in Brussels, EU fisheries ministers will follow up on the Norway “consultations” at the annual AGRIFISH Council meeting, where quotas for the North East Atlantic will be fought over into the wee hours of the night. According to all the signs, this year they will again agree to overfish several key stocks.