STAFF REPORTER PALMA

WATERS surrounding the Balearic Islands have the fourth highest record for overfishing in the European Union, the Balearic Europa Research Centre confirmed yesterday.

In a report produced last year entitled “The European Environment - Current Status and Perspectives,” scientists claimed that it was only the Adriatic, the Aegean, and the Gulf of Leon which had worse records than the Balearics.

Researchers for the European Environment Agency (AEMA) claim that in 2001, 30 percent of commercial organisations fished in European Union waters above sustainable levels.

Importantly, the report shows that 16 species were overfished in Balearic waters in such quantities that there is little hope of recovering stock levels.

AEMA says that marine ecoystems and coastlines in EU territory is deteriorating because of overfishing, over-exploitation of natural resources, industrial contamination, invasion by exotic species and the increase of the water temperature due to climatic change.

Industrial fishing is apparently threatening the survival of many species as well as that of delicate marine ecosystems. The conflict between increasing demand for fish and failing fisheries has enormous implications for world food security and the state of our seas and oceans, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said yesterday.

The global environment organisation welcomed the latest State of the World's Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) report, issued in Rome by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). SOFIA 2010 recorded a rise to 85 percent in the number of fisheries that are fully exploited (53%) or over exploited, depleted or recovering from depletion (32%) while noting a significant trend towards an increased demand for fish – setting a new record in 2008 of 17kg live weight equivalent of fish from all sources per person. Meanwhile, the report says the proportion of under or moderately exploited fisheries able to produce higher catches is at just 15 per cent – the lowest level recorded since the mid 1970s.

According to figures from the European Commission, the outlook in Europe is even bleaker with 72 percent of stocks overfished and 59 percent of stocks for which the state is known at high risk of depletion. “As the fourth largest producer of fish and aquaculture products, the European Union should turn the trend of overfishing around and lead by example. Allowing European vessels to run down one fishery after the other in Europe and elsewhere in the world is a sign of short-sighted, irresponsible management. Europe's Fisheries Policy is in need of ambitious reform to avert disaster and save fish for generations to come,” said Louize Hill, Head of European Marine and Fisheries Policy at WWF's European Policy Office.

As the European Commission drafts its legislative proposal for a reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), WWF, with support from key industry players, is strongly advocating the adoption of long-term management plans for fisheries with involvement of key stakeholders. A reformed CFP must also offer clarity about the standards of behaviour for EU vessels abroad and ensure that total catches never exceed agreed levels.

WWF also welcomed the SOFIA report's emphasis on the need to bring an end to Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. “The EU has already taken important steps to combat IUU with a regulation introduced in January 2010. “We hope the SOFIA 2010 report will stimulate other nations and Regional Fisheries Management Organisations to clamp down and follow this example.”