Europe’s fish stocks and fishing communities face further decline without strict fishing quotas

Press release - December 14, 2015
Brussels - With more than 40 per cent of Atlantic and North Sea fish stocks assessed as overfished, EU ministers meeting today and tomorrow must set strict quotas for 2016 to end overfishing. Ministers are expected to conclude their work late on Tuesday.

Trawlers fishing for herring. Christian Aslund/ Greenpeace.

Justine Maillot, Greenpeace EU oceans policy adviser, said: “We have come a long way from the dire situation of Atlantic and North Sea fish stocks a decade ago thanks to stricter fisheries management. But we are still far from achieving stock recovery. Ministers must continue to reduce fishing pressure to end overfishing for all stocks, and give preferential access to quotas to those that fish in the least damaging way."

Cod, whiting and sole are likely to be at the heart of the ministerial haggle over fish stocks. For 2016, scientists recommend [1] a suspension of fishing for:

  • cod in the waters off the west of Scotland and in the Irish Sea;
  • herring in the waters off the west of Scotland and west of Ireland;
  • whiting in the waters off the west of Scotland; and
  • sole in the Irish Sea.

They also recommend significant quota reductions for cod in the Eastern English Channel and Southern Celtic Seas, and for sole in the waters east of Denmark and Sweden. If, for any stock, the Council decides to set fishing quotas higher than the recommended level, it is required to justify its decision. Greenpeace criticised that it failed to do so in recent decisions on Baltic stocks.

The practice of discarding unwanted fish at sea is prohibited for many species as of January 2016. This, in turn, will lead to adjustments in the total allowable catches. Greenpeace calls on ministers to ensure that these adjustments do not increase the overall fishing pressure on stocks [2]. Once agreed at EU level, ministers should give preferential quota access to fishermen using selective, low-impact methods [3].

Privileged treatment of low-impact fishermen is particularly important where severe restrictions are needed to recover heavily depleted stocks, as is the case for seabass. Measures should be tailored to those vessels with the heaviest impact on the stock, including those fishing on spawning grounds and/or using unselective gears. This will reduce the economic consequences of restrictions for those fishermen that have had minimal impact on the stock in the first place.



[2] The landing obligation will apply as of January 2016 to several fisheries in the Atlantic and the North Sea. Quotas will be adjusted to reflect catches and not – as previously done - landings for the species covered by the landing obligation. However, Greenpeace warns that these adjustments should take into account agreed exemptions to the landing obligation.

[3] Under Article 17 of the CFP Regulation, countries have the obligation to use environmental, social and economic criteria when they allocate fishing opportunities, including quotas, to fishermen. The objective is to minimise the negative impacts of fishing.


Justine Maillot - Greenpeace EU oceans policy adviser: +32 (0) 479 99 69 22,

Greenpeace EU pressdesk: +32 (0)2 274 1911,

For breaking news and comment on EU affairs:

Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace. Greenpeace does not accept donations from governments, the EU, businesses or political parties.