Ending Overfishing

Overfishing disrupts the balance of life in our oceans, affecting marine life from seabird colonies to the deep sea

Globally overfishing is the greatest pressure on marine ecosystems. Overfishing endangers seabirds, fish and cetaceans as well as the billions of people who rely on seafood as a key source of protein.

Overfishing is the greatest pressure globally on marine ecosystems. Overfishing occurs when more fish are caught than the population can replace through natural reproduction. Overfishing, along with the associated damage that commercial fisheries cause to marine habitats, is drastically changing marine ecosystems. Overfishing in combination with other man-made pressures like climate change and plastic pollution are reducing the resilience of marine ecosystems, undermining their ability to support commercial fisheries and sequester carbon. More than 30 percent of the world’s fisheries have been pushed beyond their biological limits, while many predatory species like sharks and tuna are threatened.

As industrial fisheries compete with seabirds for fish it is not surprising that the overfishing is contributing to the collapse of many seabird populations globally.  Seabirds are now the threatened bird group with a 70 per cent community-level population decline in the past seven decades. In Ireland many seabird species are in serious trouble with Atlantic Puffin and Black-legged Kittiwake having had their conservation status downgraded to vulnerable  by the IUCN in recent years.

Within the European Union the realisation that overfishing must end resulted in the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) entering into force in 2014. The CFP laid out a clear timeframe to end overfishing and set fishing quotas in line with scientific advice by 2015 where possible and, on a progressive, incremental basis at the latest by 2020. Despite this, overfishing continues due to the reluctance of the EU fisheries ministers to follow scientific advice when agreeing fishing limits.

NEF Overfishing Table 2001_2020

NEF Overfishng Table 2001_2020

Ever since the initiation of the reformed CFP, Ireland has consistently been one of the worst offenders in Europe when it comes to overfishing. This is demonstrated by the findings of the New Economics Foundation who have analysed the quotas set by EU countries fishing in the North East Atlantic between 2001 and 2020.

  • On average, quotas were set 24% above scientific advice in Ireland’s favour, putting Ireland second only to Spain in terms of the percentage of quotas above scientifically advised levels for sustainable limits over a 20-year period.
  • From 2001 to 2020 Ireland set at total of 765,000 tonnes of quota above scientific advice.

Overfishing has and will continue to reduce the amount of fish in our seas, costing coastal communities jobs and putting our marine environment under terrible pressure. It has been estimated that by setting quotas in accordance with scientific advice landings in Ireland would increase by 200,000 tonnes and €200 million in value compared to 2014.  This would translate into greater profits, higher wages, and more jobs. Sustainable fisheries are not just a moral or legal obligation but are the greatest opportunity available for us as an island nation to grow Ireland’s blue economy.

BirdWatch Ireland work to ensure that Ireland transitions to sustainable fisheries management through our ongoing engagement with government, fishing industry and environmental stakeholders in Ireland and across the EU. As an island nation Ireland has huge potential to benefit sea life and coastal communities through marine conservation and sustainable fisheries management.

Common Fisheries Policy 2020 A Discarded Opportunity

A report by BirdWatch Ireland asssesses the implementation of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy and makes recommendations on how the potential environmental and socio-economic benefits of sustainable fisheries management can be achieved.


Fishing Opportunities for 2021

BirdWatch Ireland coordinated the Environmental Pillar submission as part of the Irish Governments annual consultation on fishing opportunities. We provided insight and recommendations on how the benefits of the Common Fisheries Policy can be reaslised.

Fishing Opportunities for 2020

BirdWatch Ireland coordinated the Environmental Pillar submission as part of the Irish Governments annual consultation on fishing opportunities. We highlighted Minister Creeds poor record at EU fishing negotiations and called on him to end to over-fishing in 2020.


Fishing Opportunities for 2019

BirdWatch Ireland’s submission to the Irish Government calling for an end to over-fishing and the full implementation of a ban on discarding fish in 2019.