Europe: big appetite for sustainable fish

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 14th April 2011

FishAn overwhelming majority of EU citizens want the fish they buy to come from sources that are sustainable and not overfished, according to an independent poll commissioned by WWF and carried out in 14 EU countries.

With 88% of respondents believing it is important that fish products on sale within the European Union come from non-overfished stocks, WWF believes a clear signal is being given to the European Union that ambitious reform of the failing Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is urgently needed. The poll comes as the European Commission is about to hand over its reform proposal to the European Parliament and Member States for approval.

Despite Europe being the fourth largest producer of fish and aquaculture products, the WWF says that 54-72% of its fish stocks are overfished. Iconic species like Mediterranean bluefin tuna are on the brink of collapse as a result of irresponsible fishing practices.

According to the WWF, the CFP has twice (in 1992 and 2002) been reformed, but has failed to end overfishing, and has called for ongoing reform of the CFP as an opportunity to finally start managing fish in a responsible way. 78% of the survey’s respondents agreed, supporting a reform that ensures that all European fish products come from sustainable stocks.

“Europeans are clearly fed up with the disastrous management of our fisheries. They want the EU to turn the trend of overfishing around and the reform of the CFP offers exactly that opportunity to Members of the European Parliament and to EU Governments.” said Louize Hill, Head of Fisheries and Marine at WWF’s European Policy Office. “We cannot afford to continue wasting our precious marine resources in times of economic crisis. The 2012 CFP reform has to be the one that delivers change.”

The WWF said results of the poll were especially impressive in Southern European countries (Portugal 92%, France 93%, Spain 91%, Italy 95%) and in Belgium (91%), where over 90% of respondents think it is important that fish on sale comes from non-overfished sustainable stocks.

“It is interesting to see that in countries where fishing is an important sector like Portugal, France or Spain, people are even more convinced that the sustainability of fish needs to be given absolute priority in a policy reform. With the European Parliament’s new co-decision powers on fisheries policy, we now have the opportunity and the responsibility to set things right for a really new CFP,” said Portuguese MEP Maria do Céu Patrão Neves.

72% of Europeans also feel that they lack adequate information about whether the fish on sale comes from well-managed, sustainable sources.

Commenting on this Stephanie Mathey, Head of Sustainable Development at the Carrefour group said: “The poll results clearly show that consumers are keen to know that their consumption of fish is not contributing to overfishing. They need to have better information about the sustainability of the products they buy. This requires policy changes, but also action from the retail sector. Through our Responsible Fishing policy, Carrefour tries to source responsibly and keep consumers informed.”