European Fish Week - Back to the Future

European Fish Week - Back to the Future

European Fish Week - Back to the Future

June 4-12 2011  Pew Environment Group   Contact: Mike Walker +32 (0)476 622575


Find out more about European Fish Week on OCEAN2012's
Tuna caught by pole and line in the Gulf of Vizcaya (1958).
© NOAA's Fisheries Collection

Most EU fish populations are overfished. The upcoming reform of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy is an opportunity to change this. In a week of activities around Europe taking place during European Fish Week, OCEAN2012 asks EU fisheries ministers to restore Europe's fisheries and their dependent communities to their former richness.

European fishing grounds were some of the most productive in the world. Overfishing has destroyed these and many of their fisheries dependent communities.



According to the European Commission: 72 percent of assessed EU fish stocks are estimated to be overexploited with over 20 percent being fished beyond safe biological limits, threatening their very future. Fewer and smaller fish are being caught and greater effort is required to find them, often resulting in the targeting of other, and sometimes even more vulnerable species.


Fisheries management reform - an opportunity for change

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is the European Union's instrument for managing fisheries and aquaculture. Since its start in 1983, the CFP has failed to prevent overfishing and achieve its central objective:  the sustainable exploitation of living aquatic resources. Over 25 years, short-term economic interest and political expediency has landed European fisheries in deep crisis.

The reach of the CFP's failure is global. The EU has enormous influence on international fisheries management and with it, considerable responsibility. Its fleet is the third largest and operates in every ocean of the world. It is the largest importer of fisheries products, importing almost 70 percent of its fish.

The European Commission itself, in its 2009 Green Paper, stated that “dramatic change … is needed to reverse the current situation.”

A reform of the CFP now provides the opportunity to stop overfishing, prevent further degradation of marine ecosystems and halt the further decline of Europe's fishing industry.


Taking the message to Europe's fisheries ministers



European Fish Week is a week of activities centered around World Oceans Day (June 8) that take place across Europe and was established by the Pew-led OCEAN2012 coalition.

This year, from June 4-12, OCEAN2012 is taking a look at how Europe's marine environment used to be healthier, and how the CFP reform is an opportunity to go “Back to the Future”. Dive groups, aquariums, fishers groups and conservation organizations belonging to OCEAN2012 are hosting numerous events, from debates, to film screenings and scuba dives.


“We are really encouraged by the high level of interest in the second annual European Fish Week and the concern European citizens are expressing about the current state of our seas and the need to revitalise them. The European Commission will soon publish its proposal for a reformed Common Fisheries Policy. OCEAN2012 member groups are calling on EU fisheries ministers to deliver a policy that prioritises the marine environment, ensuring healthy fish stocks and safeguarding fisheries-dependent communities.”


— Uta Bellion, director of the Pew Environment Group's European Marine Programme and OCEAN2012 co-ordinator



During the week, OCEAN2012 member organizations will draw inspiration from historic references in music, poems, photographs and interviews with fishermen. The stories and evidence about the past richness of Europe's seas and fishing communities that is collected, will then be delivered to EU fisheries ministers with the message: "we want it back".


View slideshow of photography exhibition touring several European countries during European Fish Week.


According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Census of Marine Life's History of Marine Animal Populations project, evidence of Europe's lost fisheries is clear:

  • In 1900, the average length of cod landed in the North Sea was 1 to1.5 metres, and the average age was eight to 10 years. Today, the average length of landed cod is a mere 50 centimetres long, and the average age is less than three years.
  • In 1949, the bluefin tuna fishery in northern Europe peaked with an annual catch of 5,485 tonnes. Today, the commercial fishery for bluefin tuna in northern Europe is closed because the fish are gone.
  • In the 1640s, the Dutch herring fleet had 700 to 800 vessels manned by a total crew of 11,000 to 12,000, with an annual catch of about 50,000 tonnes. Today, one trawler with a crew of 10 to 11 can catch the same amount of herring.


"By reminding ourselves of how living with the sea used to be, we can better understand the present extent of overfishing and how we can play a part in ending it through an effective reform of the CFP."


— Uta Bellion



In mid-July, the European Commission is expected to publish its proposal for a reformed Common Fisheries Policy. This will be the start of an 18 month process involving negotiation between EU fisheries ministers and the European Parliament.



OCEAN2012 is committed to shaping a Common Fisheries Policy that:

  • Enshrines environmental sustainability as the over-arching principle without which economic and social sustainability is unobtainable;
  • Ensures decisions are taken at the most appropriate levels and in a transparent way, ensuring effective participation of stakeholders;
  • Delivers sustainable fishing capacity at EU and regional level;
  • Makes access to fisheries resources conditional on environmental and social criteria; and
  • Ensures public funds are only used in a way that serves the public good and alleviates social impacts in the transition to sustainable fisheries.

OCEAN2012 is an alliance of organisations dedicated to transforming European fisheries policy to stop overfishing, end destructive fishing practices and deliver fair and equitable use of healthy fish stocks.

OCEAN2012 was initiated, and is co-ordinated, by the Pew Environment Group, the conservation arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts, a non-governmental organisation working to end overfishing in the world´s oceans.



June 4-12 2011  Pew Environment Group   Contact: Mike Walker +32 (0)476 622575



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