Thursday, December 01, 2005
Listen to the anchovy
Each year in the month of December there is a marathon in Brussels over the next year's European fish quotas. The so-called friends of the fish (the countries keen to listen to scientific advice) battle with the so-called friends of the fishers (the countries who listen to the fishing companies almost exclusively). The annual fish quota allocation takes so long that some years Fisheries Ministers have almost missed their Christmas dinners...or the friends of the fish have given up by fear of missing the end of year festivities at home.
Our friends from Oceana have just put out a report on the state of the main fishing stocks in the waters of the North Atlantic. They have reviewed approximately one hundred different fisheries from the Arctic Sea to the Gulf of Cadiz.
The report does not bring good news, neither for the friends of the fish nor for the friends of the fishers: according to Oceana's findings, more than 50% of the fisheries they examined should be closed immediately; another 30% are in danger and their catches should be reduced; only little more than 10% have enough fish to allow fishing to continue or even to increase slightly.
Species regarded as 'exhausted' include sharks (both deep-sea and pelagic), a large number of rays, eels, cod in virtually the whole of Europe (except Norway), hake and anchovy in the Cantabrian Sea, whiting in the North Sea and Norway lobster and anglerfish off Galicia and Portugal, amongst others. The Atlantic mackerel, greater Argentine smelt, plaice and sole in the English Channel and South-East Ireland and redfish in Norway, Iceland and the Faeroe Islands are also thought to be on the road to collapse.
Oceana's report is also available en español. This is good because it would be useful if Spanish officials could read it on their way to Brussels, as their country is the most important fishing country in the European Union. The alternative for Spain, France, Portugal and other so-called friends of the fishers is to continue to be a part of the problem, or to become a part of the solution.
Whether the so-called friends of the fishers are really protecting fishers (even in the short term) is questionable. Oceana recalls that last year they raised the alarm about the state of the anchovy stock in the Cantabrian Sea, and that they called for significant catch reductions. But both the Spanish and French Fisheries Ministers said that these forecasts were false and a quota six times higher than what was recommended by scientists was authorised. Of course, the boomerang effect was fast: only a few days after the start of the anchovy season the fishery had to be closed down, and scientists have asked that it remains closed at least until 2006 so that the stock can start to recover.
Listen to the anchovy...