Plenty of Blame for Collapsing Fish Stocks

yellow-fin-tuna-catch-galapagosBy Stephen Leahy

SAN DIEGO, California, Feb 4 (IPS) – Climate change, pollution and overfishing have left the oceans in crisis, experts agree. Now a new study reveals that every national government with a fishing fleet has dramatically failed to manage fisheries in a responsible manner.

A detailed survey of the 53 countries that land 96 percent of the world’s marine catch shows that all have failed to comply with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. Developed in 1995, the 53 fishing nations all agreed to comply with the code as a potential rescue measure for the world’s fisheries.

And while countries claimed to comply, in fact not one is in full compliance, according the detailed analysis reported in the science journal Nature Wednesday.

I’m confident we would have turned the corner on the collapsing fish stocks had countries complied with the code,” said Tony Pitcher of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, one of the study co-authors.

“The code effectively dealt with 98 percent of the major problems of fisheries,” Pitcher said in an interview.

Even the more responsible nations such as Norway, the United States, Canada, Australia and Iceland only qualified for a rating of “good” with an estimated 55 to 60 percent compliance based on the four-year survey and analysis. Twenty-eight countries, mainly in the developing world and representing 40 percent of the world’s marine fish catch, are failing badly, the report found.

However, countries of the European Union were little better despite their knowledge and resources, said Pitcher.

“The European compliance was very disappointing,” he said.

The analysis shows that the EU Common Fisheries Policy has failed, he said. European fishing nations don’t control their fishing vessels, don’t respect fish quotas recommended by scientists, are not policing illegal fishing and have very limited protected areas.

“I hope this analysis will push the EU to clean up its act,” Pitcher stressed.

Although the voluntary nature of the code was crucial to getting a unanimous agreement in 1995, Pitcher and his co-authors say “the time has come for an integrated international legal instrument covering all aspects of fisheries management”.

“With climate change altering the oceans, it is highly urgent to take action on fisheries,” they said.

Complete story here: ENVIRONMENT: Plenty of Blame for Collapsing Fish Stocks.

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