As a result of one body being required to control the levels of fishing the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) was introduced in 1983 to try and make fishing sustainable. The CFP has three main ways of trying to achieve this; having quotas, reducing fishing effort (this is the amount size and power of fishing fleets multiplied by the amount of days spent at sea), and giving economic support to fishing communities who no longer have fishing-or whose fishing has depleted as a result of the CFP.
The quotas are set annually and work on a total allowable catches system per counties, fish stocks and fishing zones.
Fishing effort is controlled by reducing the number of fishing fleets and by limiting the number of days spent at sea.
Since 1993 EU money has been available for restructuring the economies of areas which are heavily dependent on fishing. This especially includes areas of Scotland, Portugal, Denmark and the Mediterranean. These areas may also receive Structural Funds, and since 2000 Objective 1 and Objective 2 status. These will aim to help the areas economies by diversification, job-creation, re-training and education.
However although these have helped maintain the current fishing levels, they are not improving the levels of fish within the EU. By 2000 the amount of cod in the North Sea was just 1/10th of the level it was at in 1970, and as a result fishermen could not even achieve their cod quotas. As the cod supplies became more scarce, smaller fish grew in numbers due to less predators. This caused greater fishing of the smaller species which will eventually cause depletion of them as well. In June of 2000 all nine of the commercial fishing stocks in the North Sea were declared to be ‘outside safe biological limits’. Some of these stocks may now be to depleted to recover according to some experts.
In 1976 Herring stocks crashed to such a low that a total ban on fishing was introduced. Only after this the stock recovered. This may be one of the outcomes of the CFP if current depletion to stocks of cod continues to ensure that it can also recover.
One of the reasons that the Herring stock crashed so rapidly was due to the use of drift nets which hang vertically in the sea due to floats and weights holding them in place. These are about 20-30m in height and would catch an enormous amount of fish in one go. As a result of larger nets in the 1990s, the UN put a limit of 2.5km nets, this however still proved fatal to many species (as they are not a form of species specific fishing) in the Mediterranean and therefore resulting from this the CFP banned there use in January 2002.
As a result of overfishing there is now a lack of fish in the EU maritime which is not only causing problems for fishermen, but also the industries which directly rely of fishing, such as fish processing, boat building and fish marketing. This collectively has an impact on the areas where these particular industries are concentrated, and now these areas tend to be ones which are receiving support from the EU.
As a result of receiving support from the EU diversification is occurring which is causing the fishing industry in those areas to be abolished, or at the very least in decline. In the long term this means that the fishing industry is going to take a long time to recover from the current slump. Even if the stocks of fish do increase and the EU increase the quotas and fishing effort, it is likely to take a long time for the fishing industry itself to be able to increase again to its former levels of 1970.
In conclusion to this statement I believe that unless drastic measures are taken, beyond the current measures which are being taken by the CFP I believe that fishing in the EU is becoming increasingly unsustainable to the extent that it may never recover. However with tight regulations introduced by the CFP, and a change in fishing techniques the industry may be able to achieve a harmony with the environment and once again become sustainable.
Geography for A2 Clive Hart