Overfishing: Sweden, UK and Ireland top offenders

Sweden, UK and Ireland overfishing
© iStock/gemredding

The UK and Ireland have ranked second and third on this year’s Landing the Blame report, which measures overfishing in the EU.

The report, compiled by British think tank the New Economics Foundation (NEF), covers the discrepancy between fishing quotas imposed on Member States fishing in the Northeast Atlantic and the catch levels recommended by scientific bodies including the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). Between 2001 and 2018, consecutive reports have found, an average of two thirds of total allowable catches (TACs) set by EU fisheries exceeded scientific recommendations.

The 2019 league table of EU overfishing was topped by Sweden, with TACs averaging 52.4 per cent higher than the quotas suggested by ICES. The UK was second with excess TACs of 24.3 per cent; with Ireland – whose fishery controls were found by the European Commission to contain “severe and significant weaknesses” in November 2018 – in third place with 21.7 per cent. The UK ranked highest for actual tonnage: the report found UK TACs exceeded scientific advice by 106,925 tonnes. By comparison, the next highest offender in terms of tonnage was Denmark, with 49,914 tonnes – 19.7 per cent more than the recommendation.

Introducing the report, NEF researchers Griffin Carpenter and Christiane Heisse said: “Food for an additional 89 million EU citizens. An extra €1.6 billion in annual revenue. Over 20,000 new jobs across the continent. Far from being a pipe dream, all of this could be a reality, if we paid more attention to one of Europe’s most significant natural resources – our seas. If EU waters were properly managed – with damaged fish stocks rebuilt above levels that could support their maximum sustainable yield (MSY) – we could enjoy their full potential within a generation.”

While the EU has set targets to end overfishing altogether by 2020, the Landing the Blame report found that Member States’ TACs exceeded scientists’ recommendations by a total of 312,000 tonnes in 2019.

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