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GEO Year Book 2003  
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Overfishing

Fishing fleets are modern and efficient, and the market for protein from the sea is strong. Since 1990, total European landings of marine catch have increased by 25 per cent despite a reduced fleet capacity. Overfishing has resulted in a reduction of many marine fish stocks to levels below those that can sustain their populations (Table 1). (See Emerging Challenges and GEO Indicators sections.)
In October 2003, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) advised zero catches of cod and several other fish stocks, until stocks recovered to certain specific levels (ICES 2003). The European Commission adopted a proposal on the establishment of a revised fishing effort regime in the western waters, which aims to protect fish stocks (European Council 2003).
Commercial inland fisheries have fallen by 32 per cent since 1990 (EEA 2003b). The FAO notes that environmental degradation, rather than overexploitation, is the biggest threat to inland fish stocks. However, illegal landings, for example of sturgeon from the Caspian Sea, are often many times greater than legal landings and constitute a major pressure on the resource

Table 1: Recommended and estimated 2003 stocks of cod, plaice, whiting, hake and capelin

Area

Minimum recommended stock size (tonnes)
Estimated stock size in 2003 (tonnes)
Cod – North Sea and Skagerrak,
Eastern Channel
150 000
52 000
Cod – Irish Sea
10 000
Just above 6 000
Cod – west of Scotland
22 000
2 500
Plaice – North Sea
300 000
152 000
Whiting – Irish Sea
7 000
1 700
Hake – Ireland down to Portugal


Northern stock: 140 000
Southern stock: 35 000
Northern stock: 114 100
Southern stock: 16 000
Capelin – Barents Sea
200 000
280 000
Source: ICES 2003

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