More than 50 scientists have signed a statement calling for action by the European Commission, European Parliament and EU member states to end overfishing “as an urgent and necessary response to biodiversity and climate crises”.
The scientists are urging the EU to set fishing limits within scientific advice, and recognise that “ecosystem-based fisheries management is critical to the health of the ocean and its capacity to respond to climate change”
The statement, signed by leading voices in the marine science field, including Professor Hans-Otto Pörtner, Dr Valérie Masson-Delmotte, Professor Didier Gascuel, Dr Rainer Fröse, Professor Alex Rogers, Dr Easkey Britton, Professor Sebastian Villasante, Professor Victoria Reyes-Garcia, Dr Sandra Cassotta, Dr Joachim Claudet and Professor Daniel Pauly, was launched on Thursday (11th June) by the Our Fish campaign.
Scientists from across Europe and the world are invited to sign onto the Statement; the final list of signatories will be delivered to EU Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, and EU Member State Ministers, after the summer, and before annual fishing limits are agreed for 2021.
“Overfishing and bycatch are the largest drivers of biodiversity loss in the ocean”, said Professor Alex Rogers, Science Director at Rev Ocean. “We need a healthy and productive ocean, and ending overfishing is key. This is especially the case when faced with the effects of climate disruption, which affects the whole ocean, including fish stocks themselves. As a scientist, I am calling on the EU to recognise that ecosystem-based fisheries management is critical to the health of the ocean and its capacity to respond to climate change. It is also vital for human health, including that of future generations”.
“Overfishing means taking more fish out of the water than can grow back. To be honest, that’s pretty stupid. Because then the stocks shrink, and shrunken small stocks can only support small catches. So that makes no sense at all; it doesn’t help the fishermen, it doesn’t help the fish, it doesn’t help anyone. The whole thing also has an impact on the climate; fish stocks that are too small cannot fulfill their role in the ecosystem. If the ecosystem does not function properly, it cannot breathe properly and cannot absorb CO2 properly”, said Dr. Rainer Fröse, GEOMAR – Helmholtz centre for ocean research Kiel, Germany.
“To face climate change, we need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. But that will not be enough. At the same time, we need to act for biodiversity”, said Professor Didier Gascuel, Head of the Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Center, at Agrocampus Ouest, Institut Agro in France. “In the ocean, as a priority, this requires ending overfishing and developing an ecosystem-based fisheries management. As scientists, we know that this would allow rebuilding healthy fish stocks and more resilient ecosystems. So yes, for fish stocks, for ecosystems, and for fishermen, ending overfishing is an efficient way to mitigate the effects of climate change. Definitely, ensuring sustainability for fisheries is climate action.”
“The EU has the best available science at its fingertips, now we need political will to turn this science into action”, said Rebecca Hubbard, Programme Director of Our Fish, which campaigns to end overfishing and restore a healthy ocean ecosystem. “Nature is sending us a message, and scientists are translating it for us: the biodiversity and climate system that support our life on this planet are being destroyed by our way of living – this will ultimately destroy us if we do not take action urgently. Ending overfishing is crucial to acting on the biodiversity and climate emergency.”