06. July 2011 Fishing at the Edge of Collapse

German marine ecologist gives bad marks for the Common Fisheries Policy of Europe

Ecologically disastrous, economically senseless and questionable from a democratic point of view – this is how marine ecologist Dr Rainer Froese from the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences (IFM-GEOMAR) in Kiel (Germany) describes the Common Fisheries Policy of Europe in the current issue of the scientific journal "Nature". He points out alternatives that have already been successful, elsewhere.


Europe and especially Germany often consider themselves as forerunners in combining economic success with high level environmental protection standards. Dr Rainer Froese, marine ecologist at the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences (IFM-GEOMAR) of Kiel, Germany, comes to a different conclusion regarding Europe’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The CFP has systematically decimated fish stocks in Europe, even more so than in the rest of the world, and for decades a rigid alliance of European fishing lobbies, Ministries of Agriculture and national fishing administrations have prevented real reforms, Froese writes in the current issue of the renowned scientific journal "Nature". In his article he presents the results of interdisciplinary research about fishery management in the Kiel cluster of excellence "Future Ocean". His conclusion: The CFP keeps European fish stocks systematically at the edge of collapse. "That causes harm to everyone. Fish stocks are close to extinction, fishers have problems catching the few remaining fishes, and consumers have to pay twice for every fish, because fishers get high subsidies from tax money", explains Froese.

For Froese the sad situation of the European fish stocks is not inevitable. In 2010, he joined forces with economists and lawyers and published a blue-print for future European fisheries management, which would allow recovery of the stocks and simultaneously higher profits for the fishers. This blueprint was based on experiences in the USA, Australia and New Zealand. "These countries have precautionary fishing targets and they close fisheries when stocks enter the slope to collapse", says Froese. "After the reform of their fisheries policy, profit margins of fishers in New Zealand increased to about 40 %, whereas profit margins of fishers in Europe are only about 3-6%."

On 13 July 2011 Maria Damanaki, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries since 2010, will officially publish a proposal to reform the CFP. "This proposal which is based on the 2009 green paper on the reform of the CFP, is a big step in the right direction", says Dr Froese. "Internationally agreed reference points will finally be recognized in Europe, allowing the stocks to grow away from the edge of collapse. Discarding of perfectly good fish for bureaucratic reasons will be phased out." Still the proposal falls short of the reforms that have been enacted in New Zealand, Australia and the USA, stresses Dr Froese. "Europe will have no precautionary margins and will gradually reduce fishing pressure only when stocks are on the slope to collapse, with no default rule for closing a fishery. Where the other countries have phased out or drastically reduced subsidies, the Commission only proposes to reshuffle subsidies."

He fears that the positive elements of the Commission’s proposal will be weakened by the national Ministries of Agriculture. "It’s the Council of Ministers who determines the CFP, that is, the past, present and future of European fish and fisheries."

Original paper:

Froese, R.: Fishery reform slips through the net. Nature 475, doi: 10.1038/475007a



At www.ifm-geomar.de/presse images are available for download.


Dr. Rainer Froese, Tel. 0431 600-4579
Jan Steffen (Öffentlichkeitsarbeit IFM-GEOMAR), Tel. 0431 600-2811, jsteffen@ifm-geomar.de