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This is a guest blog post by Lasse Gustavsson, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe. Oceana is the world’s largest international advocacy organization focused solely on ocean conservation.

Which animal protein requires no fresh water, produces little carbon dioxide, doesn’t require arable land and provides healthy protein at a cost per kilo lower than beef, chicken, lamb or pork, making it accessible to the world’s poor? The answer: wild fish.

Humanity has been fishing for at least 40 000 years and currently almost 500 million people around the world are dependent on the sea as their primary source of protein. Unfortunately, due to extensive overfishing practices, fish resources have disappeared from the ocean and thus directly impact our increasing inability to feed a growing world population. The current world population of 7.2 billion is projected to increase by 1 billion over the next 12 years and will reach 9.6 billion by 2050, according to the United Nations.

Analysis of global fish stocks clearly indicate that our marine resource management is not sustainable – more than 61 percent of the stocks assessed globally have been totally exploited and almost 29 percent are overexploited, according to the latest FAO statistics. This means that 90 percent of the fish in the world is totally exploited or overexploited. That’s a very worrying statistic.

The global situation also affects Europe. The most recent annual report on fishing opportunities by the European Commission reveals similarly worrying figures. 93 percent of Mediterranean stocks are estimated to be overexploited. Nearly half of the fish stocks in the Atlantic are overexploited, although the situation in the Atlantic is showing some signs of hope with a slow recovery trend over recent years. However, the declining stocks of commercially important fish such as cod and sole in the Atlantic and hake and swordfish in the Mediterranean result in less European fish on our dinner tables, less jobs in the European fishing industry and all together huge economic losses.

Overfishing not only jeopardizes the future of commercial fisheries but it also causes irreversible damage to marine biodiversity. Overfishing remains the main driver of extinction of fish species in European waters. This has been verified recently by the IUCNs European Red List assessment.

The 2014 reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) gives us reasons to remain hopeful. European seas can become abundant again. The CFP reform indicates encouraging improvements to EU fisheries management in theory. However, in reality EU fisheries management remains in a poor state.

The situation is in fact appalling – not only do we mismanage our important commercial fish stocks; almost 8 percent of all marine fish species in Europe are now estimated to be under high risk of extinction as a result of overfishing. The Red List assessment shows that the most threatened fish group are sharks and rays (large-bodied cartilaginous fishes).

The good news is that we can rebuild the abundance of European seas. It only requires the political will to take immediate action and reduce catches of endangered species by setting catch limits in line with scientific advice, protecting important habitats and by improving the scientific research and monitoring of fisheries and data-deficient species.

Restoring abundance to European seas will provide us with more healthy fish to eat, more jobs and even contribute to increasing food security in the rest of the world.

As long as the fish is in danger, so are all the people whose livelihoods depend on them.

Save the oceans, feed the world!

Author :
EurActiv Network