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Fishing in Europe on the Brink of Extinction

Fishing in Europe on the Brink of Extinction

By Marcos Sommer

Europe is facing severe depletion of the most important fish stocks, overfishing and the constant decline in employment in fishing. We are in the presence of the failure of the economy as a science that seeks the best allocation of resources to satisfy the needs of men

What should be the conservation policy for the future?
How to organize in the best possible way the control of the various fishing activities?
How to respond to the economic difficulties of the fishing sector?
How to involve more interested media in the decision-making process?
What role should the European Union play in the international arena?


At the beginning of this millennium, Europe is facing a severe decline in some of the most important fish stocks, excess fishing capacity and the constant decline in employment in fishing. We are in the presence of the failure of the economy as a science that seeks the best allocation of resources to satisfy the needs of men. The increase in unrest in all spheres of human life in Europe has dropped economic proposals based on naive faith. This is due to beliefs that economists themselves have been concerned with constructing throughout history, trying to put together a coherent and logical conceptual body. This set of ideas has built instruments that serve the economy to validate itself, but that contribute little or nothing to the desired goal of achieving sustainable development and the well-being of the population. One of the fundamental criticisms of the fishing economy, from the perspective of environmental problems, and which is part of a widely extended consensus, is that the depletion of fishing resources is not considered as depreciation, understood as the consumption of natural capital. In this millennium the community must adopt a new approach to the economic management of the fishing sector.

The control of fishing activities is insufficient and discriminatory.

European fisheries are in danger, according to the International Council for the Exploitation of the Sea (ICES). The population of the schools is no longer within safe biological limits. The situation is especially pressing considering that the species faces serious threats. First, the current intensity of catches threatens the sustainability of the fishery. For example, with a price of 600 euros per kilo of eel, it is clear that they arouse commercial greed that could lead to the rapid and complete depletion of the current population. For example, 70 percent of the annual turnover of professional fishermen on the Basque coast comes from eels, even though this type of fishing is practiced only for five months a year, from November to March. Secondly, human activity has important repercussions on the life cycle of the fish, which has to suffer the degradation of the quality of the water, the fragmentation of its habitat and the obstruction of its migrations, mainly caused by hydroelectric reservoirs. Furthermore, this migratory fish has now been weakened by Anguilli cola crassus, an unfortunately inherited parasite from the Japanese eel.

The situation of the cod and hake stocks in the North Sea and west of Scotland from the Skagerrah Strait to the Bay of Biscay is on the verge of collapse. The two species are caught in association with other species, complicating recovery measures when taking into account the activities of other fisheries.
The schools of Anchovy or bocarte are depleted as a result of the fishing competition between Spain and France. In 1965 80,000 tons of anchovy were caught in the north (Bay of Biscay) in the 90s there were an average of 30,000, from 2002 to 2004 there were 10,000 and this year 2005 the season ended with 200 tons. The bocarte, which in the world only occurs in the Cádiz area, has a very short life between 3 and 4 years, and also suffers fluctuations due to recruitment failures, that is, in the new born specimens that survive and join the population.

The situation of small pelagic stocks (herring, sprat, mackerel, anchovy, sardine) and of species subject to industrial fishing (Norway pout, sandeel) in general has not deteriorated in the last twenty years. The bluefin tuna stock is clearly overfished. Benthic resources (Norway lobster, flatfish) are subject to general economic overexploitation.

The situation of overfishing in Europe varies from one area to another, for example in the Baltic Sea, the current situation is not sustainable. In the North Sea there is a downward trend in spindle fish populations. In western waters, fishing mortality rates have been increasing, reaching and even exceeding the historical levels observed in the North Sea. In the Mediterranean, many populations are subject to overfishing. Many fish stocks currently in European seas have already exceeded safe biological limits or are about to do so.

According to the evolution "The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture" (FAO, 2005), the quantities of mature demersal fish in European seas have decreased considerably in many cases during the last thirty years. On average they were 90 percent larger in the early 1970s than in the late 1990s. The overall decline in landings is of a similar magnitude.


Evolution of the population of adult individuals of cod in the North Sea and of hake in the northern stock (thousands of tonnes).

From a biological point of view, the sustainability of many stocks is threatened if current levels of exploitation are maintained and, for now, this risk is greatest for stocks of demersal spindle fish with high commercial value. Scientific data reveal the delicate situation of the cod stocks in the North Sea. The fishing mortality rate currently reaches historic highs and the numbers of mature fish are historic lows.

The development of fish stocks depends on four basic biological factors:


A stock, considered as a number of individuals, will increase as a consequence of the number of recruits joining it, while the biomass of the stock will increase as a result of the combined effect of the number of new recruits and the individual growth of all the fish in the population. the population. The decline in populations is due to deaths that occur both from natural causes and from fishing activity, the latter factor being the main reason for their decline in most cases.


State of exploitation of marine fishery resources in Europe and the rest of the World (Source: FAO 2004).

The evolution that populations have experienced from the early 1960s to the most recent period can be summarized as follows:
* almost all spindle fish stocks have declined and the current level of catches is not sustainable in most cases;
* a number of flatfish stocks are excessively highly exploited, although some of them are close to sustainable status;
* Pelagic species and those caught for industrial purposes are in a better state, although it is necessary, to ensure their sustainability, that the catch levels remain at their current level or are reduced;
* several high-altitude species show signs of overexploitation and some of them may have reached critical levels;
* Overall, reducing the levels of exploitation of most stocks would have positive economic and biological impacts.

To control the rate of overexploitation of fish, the European Commission resorted in its Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) to the setting of maximum limits on the volume of fish that can be caught in a year (TAC, total allowable catches), and measures such such as determining the size of the meshes, closing certain areas or imposing closed seasons. All these measures to control the production of the fishing sector have been largely unsuccessful.

The difficulties that arise with the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) is that the Council systematically sets them, in some cases, at levels higher than those indicated by scientists, overfishing, discards, illegal or clandestine landings and the excess capacity of the fleet.

Fishing activity has an impact on the ecosystem, although its severity and the time required to reverse its effects are often unknown. The effect of “trophic cascades”, defined as the control of the abundance of the natural fishing populations that make up the ecological community in a given habitat, is acquiring great importance given that certain predators, by producing a cascade effect, regulate the population size of their prey. The abundance of the prey of the predated species can increase generating multiple chain effects of which there is still not total knowledge. By way of example, on the coast of Alaska, killer whales have been found that due to lack of food have approached the coast feeding on sea otters, which has caused the latter to decrease in abundance and with it has increased the abundance of sea urchins. sea ​​that have finally made the seaweed beds disappear.
Recent research off the coast of Nova Scotia in Canada found that declining cod abundance due to overfishing produced a series of cascading effects on multiple natural populations. This result provides for the first time irrefutable evidence that fisheries not only affect the target species but also have vast and as yet unknown effects on the entire biological community.

The withdrawal of specimens from their natural populations can also have consequences on biodiversity or on the effective functioning of ecosystems, regardless of whether the withdrawals reach such a dimension that the species are threatened with extinction or disappearance from a certain area.

An acceptable balance must be found between environmental and fisheries interests. On the one hand, the very nature of fishing means that, in order to keep the mortality of species without commercial interest within tolerable limits, it is convenient to restrict some forms of fishing. On the other hand, the sustainability of the fishing sector depends on the proper functioning of the ecosystem and its species. The overcapacity of the community fleets has led to over-exploitation of major stocks and excessive pressure on non-major species and habitat. If to the use of destructive non-selective fishing methods and their use as by-products to feed other animals, the so-called
annual bycatch of unwanted fish not allowed into nets and low-value or fingerling or commercial species thrown overboard estimated at about 27 million tonnes according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Without finding the injured fish that die after escaping from the nets, the annual waste of marine life reaches 60 million tons of fish.

Bottom trawling is the least selective industrial fishing method.

To understand and judge the magnitude and consequences of such a waste of life and the levels of predation and human depletion of the seas, we must know the wild methods used in catching fish and other living things; seabirds, turtles, dolphins etc., ranging from the use of boats equipped with new trawl nets whose mouth, the size of eight football fields, is capable of engulfing up to 16 Boeing 747 aircraft and nets of tens of kilometers (which they cover a marine surface of more than thirty-two thousand kilometers, where millions of animals of unwanted species fall deadly trapped). More than a third of the fish caught are not directly used for human consumption, transforming mostly into fish meal, with a cost per kilo much higher than other vegetable raw materials: the production, for example, of a kilo of fed chicken with fishmeal requires the capture of 90 kilos of fish.

A single trawler can uproot 700 kilos of corral in one set.

This problem has been accentuated by the lack or insufficiency of knowledge about the functioning of marine ecosystems and the secondary effects of fishing. Furthermore, fishing activity has been affected by damage caused to the environment. Pollution from industry and other human activities and climate change have also contributed to population declines or the disappearance of fish in some areas. Pollution, for example, has a negative effect on the quality of the fish that reaches the consumer. The high levels of organic contamination (Polychlorinated Biphenyls), heavy metals and natural toxins contained in fish are not destroyed by cooking or freezing fish. Crustaceans, for example, contain toxic levels of lead, cadmium, arsenic and other heavy metals that make their consumption very risky, since every year there are poisonings and parasitic infections that affect 30 million people.

The World Health Organization admits that there is no safe level of ingestion of mercury, the main source of which is fish. A typical can of tuna, for example, contains 15 micrograms of mercury. Measures are needed to counteract the effects of these factors. Likewise, it is important to remember that, in many areas, environmental problems can be due to the combined impact of fishing and other activities. For example, the combination of tourism and fishing can degrade a habitat that would not have suffered any damage from just one of these activities. This implies the need to manage fishing and other activities, especially those carried out near the coast, in a coherent way.

The Integrated Management of Coastal Zones system offers a series of mechanisms to guarantee timely coordination between the different policies. Some examples show that sometimes positive results have been achieved that the measures adopted make it possible to improve the situation, such as the restriction of fishing for sandeel in the North Sea to protect seabirds and the prohibition of driftnets that can contribute to the protection of marine mammals.

The Common Fisheries Policy in 2001, after almost twenty years of existence, took stock of the time that had passed, to think about its guidelines and redefine its objectives. This was the beginning of a new, more open and direct dialogue between the European Commission and the interested media. As a result, the Green Book was published, which is divided into two parts. In the first, ways are offered to reflect on the sector and select those areas in which reform is required. In the second part, an analysis of the current situation is made and the evolution experienced during the last ten years is reviewed.

The Green Paper showed that fishing was being overfished and therefore it was absolutely essential to reduce fishing capacity and effort. The control of fishing activities is insufficient and discriminatory by the fishing sector. The Green Paper proposes several solutions: improving the coordination of national control policies, harmonization of sanctions and greater transparency in the control of infractions. On the other hand, it is necessary to clearly establish the procedures for controlling the Community fleet operating in international waters.

Fishery resources freely cross national borders and ownership of a fish is only established at the time of its capture, which has the consequence that all fishermen are vulnerable to the actions of other fishermen. This is why fishing agreements are as old as the activity itself. However, such agreements are even more necessary today than before, due to the technological advances experienced in the last thirty years.

In 2002, the Fisheries Council agreed on a new approach to the CFP, including a strengthening of control, inspection and supervision of fishing activities in the EU. In addition, an Action Plan was established for cooperation in matters of observation and with a view to the creation of inspection; and in 2003 a work plan, where the first table of indicators on compliance with the standards by member states was presented.
The first package of measures of the reform of the new PPC of 2002 presented the following changes:
* Long-term approach: until that date, the measures related to fishing opportunities, and the measures related to them, had been adopted on an annual basis. This had as a consequence that there were fluctuations, which prevented the fishermen from planning future activities, they were also not effective for the conservation of fish populations. The reform of the CFP set long-term objectives to achieve and maintain safe levels of adult fish in EU stocks, as well as the measures necessary to achieve these levels.
* A new policy for fleets: the reform responded to the challenge posed by the chronic overcapacity of the EU fleet through two types of measures:

Reference dates (Source Ökoteccum).

* a simpler fleet policy that places responsibility on Member States for matching fishing capacity to fishing opportunities;
* a progressive abolition of public aid granted to private investors to modernize fishing vessels, maintenance, but not so, aid to improve safety and working conditions on board vessels

* More effective application of the rules: the heterogeneity of national control systems and sanctions for offenders reduces the effectiveness of the application of the rules. For this reason, measures were taken to intensify cooperation between the different authorities involved and to increase uniformity of control and sanctions across the EU.

Stakeholder involvement: stakeholders, especially fishermen, need to have a greater participation in the CFP management process. Through the Regional Advisory Councils (RAC), fishermen, scientists and other interested parties will share their knowledge and experiences, establishing a collaboration between them with the aim of identifying ways of:


New approach to fisheries management, incorporating environmental issues into fisheries management, reducing fishing effort according to the real possibilities of sustainable catches, making the best possible use of the resources caught and avoiding waste, and supporting the supply of high-quality scientific information. (Source: Ökoteccum).

* achieve sustainable fishing in the areas of interest of each of the RACs.

In the reform process, other action plans, strategies and communications have been approved:

  1. Strategy for the sustainable development of European aquaculture.
  2. The inclusion of environmental protection requirements in the CFP.
  3. Eradication of illegal fishing in order to ensure sustainable fishing outside Community waters.
  4. Measures to address the social, economic and regional consequences of the restructuring of the fleet.
  5. Reducing fish discards by addressing their causes.
  6. The creation of a single inspection structure to ensure the pooling of Community and national inspection and supervision means.
  7. Signing of fishing association agreements with third countries to guarantee sustainable fishing in the waters of the partner involved.
  8. Improve scientific and technical recommendations for managers responsible for fisheries. The Commission establishes, mainly, two ways to achieve this: through the reorganization of the forecast of scientific recommendations and the allocation of more resources to achieve said advice.

Since the beginning of 2003, the European Union has a new fisheries policy since the common fisheries policy needed an urgent reform, since the policy was not effective enough to meet the objectives for which it had been created, that is, to conserve fish stocks, protect the marine environment, ensure the economic viability of European fleets and provide good quality food to consumers.
The reason for this reform is that too many fish have been caught through fishing, which has caused the number of adult fish to be too small for populations to reproduce and recover. Currently, certain important fish stocks, such as cod, are on the brink of extinction. Beyond the damage that has been caused to the fish stocks themselves, such a situation also has a negative impact on the income of fishermen, the balance of the marine ecosystem and the supply of fish to the Community market. The reform was necessary to achieve sustainable fishing from the biological, environmental and economic point of view.

Overfishing causes a decrease in the reproductive capacity of some species, since it acts mainly on the largest sizes, which correspond to the adult fraction of the population and with the highest reproductive capacity.

The main responsibility of the European Community is to ensure the rational and responsible exploitation of vital fishery resources. In parallel with this responsibility, it is necessary to ensure the sustainability of the fishing sector, both in its economic and social aspects, as well as to protect the interests of the consumer. In addition, all this must be done respecting the biological requirements and the marine ecosystem.

At first glance, the basic objectives of a coherent and responsible fisheries policy seem obvious. However, when the matter is analyzed in more detail, it stands out that this kind of policy is between two waters, and even responds to demands that are sometimes contradictory:

* Modernize vessels while limiting fishing effort.
* Protect employment while reducing fleet capacity.
* Ensure an adequate income for fishermen while catches continue to decline.
* And finally, obtain fishing rights in third country waters without posing a threat to the sustainable exploitation of resources.

Spain is the EU country where the fishing fleet has decreased the most between 1995 and 2004, with a reduction of 4,000 vessels. The Spanish fleet has gone from 18,338 vessels in 1995 to 13,961 in 2004, only surpassed by Greece (19,048 vessels) and Italy (15,666), according to Eurostat and supplemented by the MAPA. Spain is also the country where the cut has meant the greatest reduction in tonnes (-110,000 tonnes), followed by Italy (-30,000) and, on the contrary, French (50,000 tonnes) and Irish (30,000 tonnes) registered the most increases. significant. The highest number of "serious fishing offenses" in the entire European Union in 2003 was registered by Spain, with 3,158, which represents 33 percent of the offenses committed by EU countries, according to a report published by the EU in June of 2005. Community countries reported 9,502 cases of serious infringement, 40 percent higher than the previous year. 88 per cent of these offenses were recorded in five Member States: Spain, Greece, France, Italy and Portugal, according to the EC assessment quota on the compliance of the CFP rules.

The Court of Justice of the European Union in July 2005 imposed a historic correction on France for having neglected its obligations to comply with the application of Community regulations on fisheries policy, especially with regard to the control of landings and of the commercialization of specimens below the authorized size. The judgment of the High Court establishes that France must pay the European Union treasury, immediately, the amount of 20 million euros as a lump sum for the damages caused to the Blue Policy of the Union, and another 58 million for each six months past due as of yesterday that elapses without the condemned situation having been corrected, that is, France complying with the control obligations established in a 1991 ruling of the Court of Justice.

On the other hand, new challenges appeared in the international arena derived from the globalization of markets and the emergence of new fishing powers. Finally, the CFP should be consistent with the rest of the Community policies that affect, among other things: the environment, economic and social cohesion, cooperation for development and consumer protection.

The systems, the total allowable catches (TAC) and quotas, the technical measures and the programming of reductions in fishing capacities are the solutions applied by the European Union and confirmed scientific opinions, for a long time. However, these measures only partially solved the problems. The protection of young fish, on which their incorporation into the group of adult fish depends when they have reached a sufficient degree of development, both in age and size, as well as the economic situation of even more effective measures. The PPC reforms outlined in The Green Paper (2001) advise, among other things, that a multi-annual and multi-species approach be carried out that will reduce the uncertainty related to annual variations in TAC and allow fishermen to better forecast their activities in the longer term. .

The Council of Ministers has today established a plan to rebuild certain stocks of cod, as well as a political agreement on a plan to rebuild stocks of northern hake. In addition, reconstitution plans have been put in place for various stocks of common sole and Norway lobster, as well as for southern hake.

The rebuilding plans are intended to promote the rebuilding of stocks of endangered fish and aim to achieve, over a period of five to ten years, a concrete increase in the numbers of adult fish in affected stocks. In such cases, a series of measures adapted to the characteristics of the

Fish Populations Affected by the Adopted Reconstitution Plans.
COD: North Sea, Cattegat, Skagerrak, Western Scotland, Irish Sea and Eastern Channel.
HAK called “Northern”: North Sea, Cattegat, Skagerrak, Western Scotland, Irish Sea, Eastern Channel, Western Channel, Celtic Sea, Western Ireland and Bay of Biscay.

each species to achieve the objective sought, such as limitations on catches based on the multi-annual objective, reduction in the number of fishing days, reduction in fishing mortality, technical measures or reinforcement of controls. When the multi-year target is reached for two consecutive years, the rebuilding plan is terminated. These stocks are then the subject of a "management plan" that aims to keep affected populations at biologically safe levels. The limitation of fishing effort is an important factor in the cod rebuilding plan, the objective of which is to allow a renewal of the quantities of adult cod in the affected populations. Starting in 2004, the number of days that vessels can spend fishing these stocks has been reduced.

With regard to northern hake, the most recent scientific opinions reveal a slight improvement in the state of these stocks during the last two years. For this reason, the strategy followed has been to try above all to achieve a reduction in the fishing mortality rate, so the applicable TACs must guarantee a limitation of this resource by 0.25 percent.

From the outset, the Commission has been concerned with gathering as many points of view as possible before proposing measures related to the common fisheries policy. Concentration procedures have always been continuous in specific committees or working groups. The Commission has understood how important it is to integrate stakeholders in the process of drawing up the measures of the Common Fisheries Policy. With the creation of the Regional Advisory Council, it was possible to facilitate the different stakeholders in the fishing sector to feel around la misma mesa, para que se escuchen, dialoguen y, a continuación, elaboren propuestas comunes. Lógicamente, es muy probable que la capacidad de funcionamiento y de elaboración de propuestas de un consejo consultivo regional dependa de la calidad del diálogo entre los diferentes Estados miembros que participan en el mismo Consejo Consultivo Regional, entre los representantes del sector y de la sociedad civil, entre científicos y profesionales, los armadores, asociaciones de mujeres, así como los puertos, los centros de subastas, la industria de la transformación y los mayoristas etc. Con el fin de promover la transferencia, las reuniones de los CCR son públicas, esto anima a los científicos a que participen con sus trabajos.

Los CCR son órganos con forma de asambleas compuestas en sus dos terceras partes por representantes del sector de la pesca, y el tercio restante por otros grupos interesados: asociaciones de consumidores, ONG dedicados a cuestiones medioambientales o de desarrollo, agrupaciones de mujeres, etc. Los científicos y las administraciones nacionales y regionales también podrán participar.
Los cinco CCR se crearon en zonas geográfica y biológicamente homogéneas, y otras dos centradas en la explotación de determinadas especies. El objetivo principal es permitir a los medios interesados participar más activamente en el desarrollo de la PPC y acercar la política pesquera más a la realidad de las diferentes regiones. Los CCR pueden elaborar, para la Comisión y las autoridades nacionales competentes, recomendaciones y propuestas relativas a todos los aspectos de la gestión de la pesca en la zona o el ámbito de su competencia. Así se puede citar algunos ejemplos posibles:
a) Solicitar de terceros o por iniciativa propia, pueden hacer recomendaciones a la Comisión o a los Estados miembros sobre todas las materias que afectan la gestión de la pesca en sus zonas.
b) La Comisión les consultará durante la preparación de medidas de gestión como, por ejemplo, las dirigidas al establecimiento de un plan de reconstitución plurianual de una especie en peligro.
c) Información a la Comisión y a los Estados miembros acerca de todos los problemas derivados de la aplicación de las normas de la PPC en sus zonas. Además, podrán proponer soluciones a dichos problemas a través de recomendaciones.
Es importante destacar que la legislación europea no delimita el ámbito de competencia de los CCR. Al haber sido creados para mejorar la gestión de los recursos, nada impide que decida también ocuparse de cuestiones como el control o derechos de la pesca.

A pesar de su existencia que se derive de los mismos objetivos de agrupar a los profesionales del sector y de emitir dictámenes sobre cuestiones relacionadas con la pesca, el Comité Consultivo Pesquero y de la Acuicultura (CCPA) ofrece grandes diferencias respecto a los Consejos Consultivos Regionales (CCR). Así, los CCR se encargan de presentar dictámenes y recomendaciones acerca de aspectos específicos de su zona de competencia, mientras, que el CCPA se ocupa de la PPC de manera global, tanto geográficamente (todos los Estados miembros) como por áreas temáticas (todas las materias: pesca, transformación, acuicultura, fondos regionales etc.). El CCPA también puede dar su opinión sobre cualquier asunto que afecte a la pesca en general; por ejemplo, sobre cuestiones sanitarias o relativas a los mercados y productos de la pesca y la acuicultura. Otra diferencia es que los miembros del CCPA no proceden directamente de las asociaciones representativas del sector, sino de sus federaciones europeas: la de armadores (EUROPESCA), la de cooperativas (COPA, COGECA), la de organizaciones de productores (EAPO), la de transformación y comercio (AIPE-CEP), la de acuicultura (FEAP, COGECA, AEPM), la de sindicatos de pescadores (ETF) y la de ONG, así como las asociaciones de consumidores (ECCG) y las ONG ecologistas y de desarrollo (WWF, SEAS at Risk, RSPB, Greempeace International, BirdLife, Pecle et developpement, CAPE, etc.).

Como ocurre a cualquier organización nueva, los CCR se encuentran todavía en el pleno proceso de aprendizaje y éxito es un elemento clave del futuro de la pesca europea. De esta manera, a través de estos órganos, los pescadores y las demás partes interesadas podrán contribuir en gran medida a la elaboración y la gestión de la PPC.

Hasta este milenio en la EU no ha había existido un proyecto de reforma tan ambicioso para la PPC, es una oportunidad inmejorable para asegurar el futuro del sector de la pesca europea en beneficio de todos los implicados: el sector pesquero y las comunidades costeras, las poblaciones de peces, el medio ambiente marino y los consumidores. Todas las partes interesadas tienen un papel importante que desempeñar para que la reforma de la PPC sea un éxito, lo cual redundará en beneficio de todos.

A pesar de la reforma PPC en la EU, la situación actualmente se nos esta escapando de las manos, y es necesario una vuelta al sentido común. El sistema global de navegación por satélite (GPS), las ecosondas, la cartografía del fondo marino, y fundamentalmente toda la tecnología usada, han permitido a los pescadores incrementar su capacidad de localización y pesca. Esta tecnología permite que los barcos bien equipados puedan localizar mejor que antes los bancos de peces, y en consecuencia mantener los niveles de capturas de las poblaciones decrecientes.

Además podemos decir que en este milenio la fase de crecimiento de la industria pesquera en la EU ha finalizado. Esto es el resultado de una aplicación insatisfactoria de las normas de la PPC y la falta de uniformidad en su cumplimiento han conducido a una situación de sobrepesca y una creciente disminución de las existencias comerciales clave. Actualmente se realizan capturas por encima de la cuota fijada y de peces demasiados pequeños, que una vez capturados se vuelven a tirar al mar, muertos, o bien se desembarcan ilegalmente pero en cualquier caso estos peces han sido sacados de sus reservas sin contribuir a su renovación mediante la reproducción. Resulta preocupante que la cantidad de peces maduros en muchas poblaciones se sitúen en el límite o por debajo de los niveles considerados biológicamente seguros lo que amenaza su sostenibilidad.

La pesca es el factor humano más importante que está cambiando los mares en Europa. Somos animales terrestres y para nosotros los cambios que afectan a los animales terrestres son visibles, mientras que nos resulta difícil percibir los que afectan a los organismos marinos, sus ecosistemas y cadenas tróficas que conecta las especies. Los peces en mayor peligro actualmente son los grandes, porque el hombre siempre quiere paquetes grandes de carne. Ahora están desapareciendo, la pesca se está concentrando en los que son un poco más pequeños, hasta que desaparezcan. En los mares europeos, desde hace un siglo ocurre lo mismo que ocurrió en la tierra hace 10.000 o 20.000 años con los mamuts. Es un proceso de transición de los ecosistemas marinos dominados por peces grandes que pasan a ser dominados por especies de menor tamaño y al final es una sopa de organismos muy pequeños que cambia muy pálidamente y que es muy difícil predecir.

La consolidación de las cifras de biomasa pesquera en Europa es el vasto campo de trabajo de los científicos, desde la investigación en la cadena trófica y el ciclo vital de las especies comerciales, hasta el estudio de las corrientes oceánicas y terminales y las artes pesqueras como el tamaño de las mallas de las redes de arrastre. La lógica del desarrollo sostenible consiste en que menos es más: recortando las capturas de hoy los pescadores llegarán a extraer mayores cosechas, aunque es cuestión de tiempo. Para los científicos europeos los hechos biológicos son llenos y claros y no merecen discusión alguna. La simple realidad es que décadas de sobrepesca han saqueado los recursos del Mediterráneo, del Mar del Norte y del Báltico, mientras que partes del Atlántico Norte, el mayor caladero europeo, podrían derrumbarse en pocos años.

Los planes que sigue la EU Comisión marcan el inicio de una estrategia, en lugar de repartir una vez al año la cosecha general en cuotas nacionales, se siguen los objetivos de cosecha anuales dentro de los límites biológicos de seguridad. Se eliminaron las subvenciones destinadas a la pesca y los armadores de arrastre recibirán ayudas para desguazar sus embarcaciones. Todo esto tiene un gran costo, dado por los puestos de trabajo, las inversiones y el prestigio nacional que esta en juego.

Sabemos que algo va mal.
Sabemos que tendremos que hacer algo.
Sabemos que actuar ahora nos permitirá minimizar los costes.
Y a pesar de todo no logramos reunir suficiente valor político para hacerlo.
La gestión sostenible de la pesca en nuestros mares y océanos es una cuestión vital para el futuro del planeta.

* Dr. Marcos Sommer Ökoteccum Germany.


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