News blog

Science advice seldom followed in setting fishing quotas

The WWF is stepping up pressure on European politicians ahead of a crucial vote on fisheries reform, with an analysis compiling a picture of persistent ignoring of scientific advice.

Europe’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is undergoing a huge shake-up in an attempt to combat years of overfishing. The amount of fish that European Union (EU) vessels are allowed to catch is set annually by member-state ministers, on the basis, supposedly, of advice from fisheries scientists at the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES).

However, today’s analysis from the WWF suggests that in the past nine years, ministers stuck to the scientific advice in only 13% of their decisions. On average, quotas were set 45% higher than suggested by scientific advice, says the conservation charity. Although the numbers are unlikely to surprise many policy watchers in the area, they do throw the current overfishing situation in the EU into a harsh light.


“Between 2003 and 2012, the European Union paid around €7.5 million (US$9.9 million) to ICES for a scientific service which the fisheries ministers are simply not taking into account when making their decisions. Something has got to change,” said Tony Long, director of WWF’s European policy office, in a statement.

On Monday and Tuesday next week the European Parliament’s fisheries committee will consider CFP reform. The meeting is seen by some as a crucial point, because it presents a chance to amend proposed legislation that has been criticized by a number of scientists (see ‘European fisheries reform stumbles forward‘).


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