Ending overfishing

We love fish. Whether it’s about our diet, livelihoods or saving our seas, fish matter.

At Our Fish we’re campaigning to protect our fish and our seas to be enjoyed for generations to come. But at the moment this future is being threatened by bad political decisions and powerful lobby groups.

On this page we briefly explain the shady ways our current fishing rules are set and why we need your help to save our fish.

The problem part one - bad political decisions

How do we maintain healthy fish populations?

If we fish too much in any year or continue discarding tonnes of dead and dying fish, there won’t be enough fish left for the next year. It’s really important that we leave enough fish in the sea that they can breed and produce next year’s catch. Otherwise not only could the fish be in trouble, but so could we!

So balance is really important. Maximum Sustainable Yield (or maximum fishing limits) describe the maximum amount of fish we can take out of the seas without upsetting this balance.

How are EU fishing rules set?

Step 1: Leading scientists from across Europe assess how healthy each fish stock is, and work out what the maximum fishing limits should be for next year.

Step 2: The European Commission, after reading this scientific advice, makes a proposal on what the fishing limits should be, which is sent to Ministers from across the EU (sometimes even this proposal is above the scientific advice! Not a great start to ending overfishing).

Step 3: Ministers from across the EU gather to officially set the maximum fishing limits. This meeting happens behind closed doors where Ministers are lobbied by the fishing industry. Year after year, scientific advice is ignored and some fishing limits are set dangerously high.

In the last 16 years, 7 out of 10 fishing limits have been set above what’s recommended by scientists as safe!

On top of that far too much of each country’s limit is awarded to huge fishing trawler companies with terrible track records of following the rules, while smaller, more sustainable fishers lose out.

By giving in to industry lobbying like this, and then looking the other way when companies act illegally, they’re risking all of our futures.


The problem part two - ignoring illegal discarding

Discarding means throwing fish and other sea-life back into the sea, most of it dead and dying. It’s extremely wasteful, and for most EU fisheries, it is now illegal. But tragically it’s still very common.

Usually this is done because the fish they have caught can’t be sold for a good profit (e.g. too small or the ‘wrong’ species) or it might simply be that they have caught more fish than they are allowed to and don’t want to get into trouble.

Up to 1.7 million tonnes of dead and dying fish is thrown back into EU seas each year. This can be up to 60% of each catch.

By law almost all of catches need to be brought to shore and accounted for, but noone is enforcing this.

The solution

Though the problem might sound tricky, the solutions are simple.

EU Fisheries Ministers must:

  • Set fishing limits at sustainable levels - as advised by international scientists
  • Give more quota to low impact, sustainable fishers, and those who comply with the law
  • Implement the use of remote electronic monitoring (e.g. cameras) on fishing vessels, to prevent discarding and make sure all catches are counted

Help us make this happen

We’re campaigning to end overfishing, but to make this happen we need as many people as possible to sign our petition to EU Ministers ahead of key meetings in the coming months.

If you haven't yet signed our petition, you can do here:

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