fishing boat

The European fishing fleet is on track to meet its sustainability targets, according to a new paper published by the European Commission.

The paper said good progress had been made in meeting the targets under the Common Fisheries Policy, with fishing levels closer to the EC’s maximum sustainable yield - which allows fishermen to improve their turnover and profit while at the same time protecting stocks - at 104% in 2014, down from 147% in 2003.

More than half the fisheries in Atlantic, North Sea and Baltic Sea were operating at sustainable levels, the paper claimed, with the greater North Sea ranked as best performing fishery, with the MSY standing at 92% in 2014 (versus 148% in 2003).

Overall profits for the European fishing sector also increased, with an average net profit margin of 10%, and the progress was welcomed by EU fisheries Commissioner Karmenu Vella.

“The performance of EU fleets confirms that the sustainable exploitation of fisheries in all EU waters addresses not only environmental, but also social and economic concerns,” Vella said, but he added that equal commitment was required by member states “to maintain this positive trend”.

However, the data - which will be used to formulate next year’s EU fishing quotas - was flawed, said NGO ClientEarth’s fisheries scientist Liane Veitch, who claimed overfishing had increased more than the Commission had let on, while the report was based on out of date information.

““It is disappointing in the extreme that the Commission used out of date information in their report, the latest data shows overfishing has actually increased,” Veitch claimed.”

”The Commission is required to report on the state of EU fisheries and progress to achieve sustainable fishing, and this should be done with transparency and integrity,” she added.

”The data actually shows that we need more ambition from ministers to safeguard the future of EU fishing. A continuation of short-termist thinking will result in sharp shocks for fishermen and consumers as we approach the absolute deadline in 2020 to end overfishing.”