Even though the Western Waters multi-annual plan (WWMAP) does set a long-term, regionalized framework for Atlantic fisheries, it lacks concrete measures on vital environmental issues such as protection of essential fish habitats and fish stock recovery areas, i.e. spawning and nursery grounds, as well as sound management targets for unwanted catches, the so-called bycatch.
Unfortunately, the plan also still allows for fishing above sustainable levels in certain cases and shows a double standard in management by setting different objectives for the target stocks and lowering conservation efforts for bycatch stocks.
“EU lawmakers have again showed no ambition. Their legal duty is to end overfishing by 2020 for all harvested species, but with such a weak plan this binding requirement will only be achieved for the fish stocks they consider priority. The EU must show determined leadership on marine conservation in these times of environmental emergency,” said Oceana Europe Policy and Advocacy Manager Javier López.
The unambitious plan, which was the result of hasty negotiations between the three key EU institutions; the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the EU, received 525 votes in favor and 132 against. The report was led by a French MEP Alain Cadec (European People’s Party), the chairman of the European Parliament’s fisheries committee.
EU Western Waters is a northeast Atlantic area located west of Scotland and Ireland, the Celtic Sea, the Irish Sea and the English Channel, as well as the Bay of Biscay, the Iberian waters and the waters around the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands.
EU countries such as Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the UK all have fishing fleets operating there, which hold key commercial and popular fish such as cod, haddock, seabass, plaice, sole, hake, Norway lobster, anglerfish and megrims, representing landings of around 368,000 tonnes in 2017, with a first sale value of around €1.4 billion.
Environmental NGOs have called on the EU to deliver a strong management plan for this important fisheries region that ensures the full recovery of fish stocks. Back in 2013, during the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, EU countries committed to end overfishing of all harvested stocks by 2020 at the latest. However, recent estimates show that around 40% of stocks in this area are still overfished, casting doubt on the long-term sustainability of the stocks.