300 Scientists Urge EU To Protect Ocean Health As Climate Action

September 10, 2020

End overfishing as an urgent and necessary response to the biodiversity and climate crises – that’s the message delivered to EU Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius this week, as part of a statement signed by more than 300 scientists.

BirdWatch Ireland are participating in this international campaign coordinated by the eNGO OurFish. In response to the overwhelming scientific evidence supporting the benefits of ending overfishing, over 300 scientists from across Europe and Ireland have responded to our call to action by signing a statement of support. The scientists are urging the EU to set fishing limits within scientific advice, and recognise that ecosystem-based fisheries management is critical to the health of the ocean and its capacity to respond to climate change.

The signatures will also be delivered to EU Member State fisheries ministers, before annual fishing limits are agreed for 2021, and to Members of the EU Parliament who are preparing their response to the EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy.

The statement, signed by leading voices in the marine science field, including Professor Carlos M. Duarte, Professor Hans-Otto Pörtner, Dr Valérie Masson-Delmotte, Professor Rashid Sumaila, Dr Ute Jacob, Dr Jean-Baptiste Jouffray, Professor Didier Gascuel, Dr Rainer Fröse, Professor Alex Rogers, Professor Victoria Reyes-Garcia, Dr Sandra Cassotta, Professor Stiig Markager, and Professor Daniel Pauly. Leading Irish scientists supporting the call included Professor Colin Brown, Professor Pádraig Carmody, Professor Peter Crook, Professor Rory Johnson, Prof Daniel Kelly, Dr Daniel Kelly, Dr Colin Lawton, Dr Simon Berrow and Dr Easkey Briton to name a few.

Ending overfishing would deliver multiple environmental and socio-economic benefits. Ending overfishing would also improve the health of fish stocks and marine ecosystems making them more resilient to the negative impacts of climate change. What is more ending overfishing can contribute to climate action. Ending overfishing would make the fishing sector more efficient decreasing CO2 emissions from the sector. Increasing fish biomass and marine ecosystem functioning would increase the oceans capacity to lock in more CO2 in marine life and habitats, directly tackling climate change.

“Overfishing and bycatch are the largest drivers of biodiversity loss in the ocean”, said Professor Alex Rogers, Science Director at Rev Ocean. “We need a healthy and productive ocean, and ending overfishing is key. This is especially the case when faced with the effects of climate disruption, which affects the whole ocean, including fish stocks themselves. As a scientist, I am calling on the EU to recognise that ecosystem-based fisheries management is critical to the health of the ocean and its capacity to respond to climate change. It is also vital for human health, including that of future generations”.

“Overfishing means taking more fish out of the water than can grow back. To be honest, that’s pretty stupid. Because then the stocks shrink, and shrunken small stocks can only support small catches. So that makes no sense at all; it doesn’t help the fishermen, it doesn’t help the fish, it doesn’t help anyone. The whole thing also has an impact on the climate; fish stocks that are too small cannot fulfill their role in the ecosystem. If the ecosystem does not function properly, it cannot breathe properly and cannot absorb CO2 properly”, said Dr. Rainer Fröse, GEOMAR – Helmholtz centre for ocean research Kiel, Germany.

“The science is clear – now the EU must ensure that a healthy ocean is central to its response to the nature and climate crisis – and that means finally putting an end to overfishing”, said Rebecca Hubbard, Programme Director of Our Fish. “Just like with our own health, if we continue to batter the ocean with overfishing, the whole system will weaken further, until it can no longer provide us with the life-support we need it for – oxygen, climate regulation, food and jobs. The EU must stop dragging its feet and take this clear and decisive action now, before it’s too late”, concluded Hubbard.