Will the EU ever meet its overfishing targets?

According to the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), the EU is committed to ending overfishing in European oceans by the year 2020. However, as this deadline approaches, a report has shown that the EU isn’t even close to reaching this target. It’s been found that in the North Atlantic, the North Sea and Baltic, 40% of all fish populations are still being overfished. In the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, it’s even higher, at just under 90%.

The ambitious targets were set out in an attempt to rectify decades of overfishing in the region. In the Green Paper, which was released in 2009, it was stated that “European fish stocks have been overfished for decades and the fishing fleets remain too large for the available resources.” Experts argued that, although it would take time for fish levels to return to normal, EU member states could put a plan in place to set appropriate limits and stop overfishing immediately.

Originally, the landmark legal commitment had a target of 2015 to stop overfishing. But, due to concerns from the fishing industry, this date was pushed back to 2020. The most recent assessment said that overfishing for commercial fish should stop  “by 2015 where possible and, on a progressive, incremental basis at the latest by 2020”.

Yet, as we reach the end of 2018, it’s still unclear as to whether the 2020 deadline can or will be achieved. Member states argue that the policies are still challenging for the fishing industry. And although there are long-term benefits, for example, conserving fish species, sustainability, and protecting the environment, the short-term lack of income for fishers is causing problems. Additionally, they are calling for a new process for assessing the actual costs of the EU’s policy.

The EU has made progress on overfishing. The Commission’s paper, which was released in 2014, showed that levels of fish stock have risen in the last decade. In some regions, it’s fallen from 94% in 2005 to 39% this year. But levels of overfishing in other regions like the Mediterranean and the Black Sea are still concerning and have been highlighted in the report. Therefore, in the next year, the Commission will have to strengthen its approach if it wants to hit its targets.

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