PM+: EU fishing sector leading the way in technology and sustainability

MEPs can ensure the right balance between sustainable stocks and a viable fishing sector, says Europêche's Kathryn Stack.

By Kathryn Stack

19 May 2015

We often take the wide variety of seafood we have for granted and rarely stop to think about the complex structure of people involved in getting the fish to our dinner table, all the while ensuring the highest standards are met.

We at Europêche have carried out the first ever pan-European survey of consumer attitudes towards the fishing industry and to eating fish as part of their regular diet.

Four thousand consumers from eight European nations took part in the survey. Among the key findings were that 71 per cent of those surveyed thought the industry played a vital role in feeding a growing world population, which will reach over 10 billion by 2050, and 84 per cent said that governments should do more to support the sector and fishermen.


It was also found that fish is the most popular source of protein globally, the survey highlighted that well over 70 per cent of Europeans eat fish at least once a week.

Spanish consumers were revealed as the most avid fans, with almost 75 per cent eating fish at least two-three times each week, the majority of whom stating because it is a healthy source of protein.

Despite these positive attitudes towards the EU fishing sector, over half of respondents believed fish stocks were in serious decline, a common misconception that the current stock data shows clearly isn't the case.

The latest scientific findings by the European commission show that 36 stocks are now fished at maximum sustainable yield (MSY) levels, a key indicator of the sustainability, compared to 27 fisheries at MSY in 2014, and just two in 2003.

According to the latest scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), there has been a 50 per cent reduction in fishing pressure across all commercial stocks in the north Atlantic since 2000.

The EU fishing sector is leading the way in innovative technology and gear development, and is taking part in a huge number of projects to improve catches, enhance monitoring and compliance and participates in voluntary ocean clean-up.

This proactive approach and commitment to sustainable fishing must filter down to the public and policymakers so they can see for themselves all the hard work and success the sector has achieved over the last few years.

Fishermen take their role as stewards of the sea seriously and there is no one more determined than the fishermen themselves to see healthy and sustainable stocks.

MEPs can play a vital role by reflecting these positive trends in their policymaking, by continuing to promote a sustainable sector capable of thriving under sensible and workable fisheries policies.

This will lead to more tailor-made legislation supported by the industry, a driver for innovation and growth.

The management of fisheries at EU level is slowly moving away from cumbersome, top-down, micro-management, blanket measures and MEPs can ensure this shift is maintained to strike the right balance between sustainable stocks and a viable sector.