Fish Dishes: Background | WWF

Fish Dishes: Background

Seafood is a popular and healthy part of the European diet. The average EU citizen consumes around 22 kg of seafood per year, with the Portuguese eating over 56 kg per person per year - well above the global average of 20 kg. Consumption rates are high in Russia, Norway, and Iceland as well: over 90 kg per person per year in the case of the latter
This briefing provides a snapshot of the destruction and waste behind some European fisheries. We have chosen 6 seafood dishes eaten in Europe - cod and chips, sushi, plaice fillet, swordfish steak, langoustine linguine, and seafood paella - and exposed the major problems behind them.

Although we have focused on one main problem per dish, the chosen fisheries all have multiple problems.

We have also suggested better choices for each seafood dish to illustrate that consumer-led solutions to the fisheries crisis are available, and to give consumers food for thought when they buy and eat seafood.

The Marine Stewardship Council ( MSC ) label is the simplest way for consumers to make the best environmental choice.
	© WWF
WWF Report: Fish Dish – exposing the unacceptable face of seafood. Download the pdf (1.22MB) © WWF

Every European who buys fish – whether as a consumer, chef, retailer, processor, or restaurateur – has a huge role to play in securing the future of Europe’s fish dishes and its fishing industry.

By understanding the scale and urgency of the problem, and choosing the fish we buy accordingly, preferably MSC certified fish, all Europeans can encourage better seafood

Simon Cripps, Director, WWF Global Marine Programme

The Problems with certain fish dishes: overfishing, illegal fishing, wasteful fishing, unselective fishing, destructive fishing, unfair fishing

European fisheries are in crisis

Most fish stocks in European waters are now overfished, from the North Sea to the Northeast Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea.

For many of Europe’s commercial stocks, numbers of adult fish are just 10% of what they were 30 years ago. Stocks are also depleted in the waters of other countries where European fleets fish.

Too many fishing boats
The basic problem is that there are just too many fishing boats. The EU fleet, for example, is larger than that which its waters can sustain. This situation is encouraged by EU subsidies to the tune of € 500 million each year, which help keep surplus boats afloat.

On top of this, current systems for fisheries management often involve more politics than science, with quotas consistently being set much higher than scientific advice.

Illegal, unregulated, and unreported
These factors, together with illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU or pirate) fishing, have led to massive overfishing. Overfishing does more than deplete valuable fish populations and put livelihoods at risk.

Fishing gear, particularly bottom trawls, can be extremely damaging to fragile marine habitats. Vast quantities of unwanted juvenile fish and other marine life are hauled up by unselective nets and hooks, only to be thrown away dead or dying.

This destruction and waste threatens endangered marine species, hampers the recovery of depleted fish populations, and reverberates throughout entire marine ecosystems.

Indeed, fishing and aquaculture have been ranked as the primary threat
to most of Europe’s marine environment.

A sustainable industry is possible
Despite the widespread and serious problems within Europe’s fisheries, WWF believes that a sustainable industry is possible - and indeed is encouraged by progress being made in some European, and other, fisheries.

However, WWF believes that much more needs to be done, and quickly. Too often, the European Commission, European governments, and the fishing industry ignore the signs warning of imminent disaster.

There is a pressing need to change the way we fish. If action is not taken now, fishing as we know it today could end within a generation.

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