GLAND, Switzerland -- Some of Europe's most popular fish dishes are a recipe for disaster for our oceans and fishing communities, warns WWF in a new report, which exposes the destructive, illegal and wasteful fishing which lies behind some of our favourite seafood.
The report, Fish Dish – exposing the unacceptable face of seafood, is the first such review of six favoured fish dishes in Europe and serves up an urgent warning to governments to toughen up fisheries management.
In the case of plaice and sole, appreciated for their delicately flavoured white flesh, most catches come from Europe's most wasteful fishery. Up to 80 per cent of some plaice catches in the North Sea are thrown overboard dead or dying, either too small or less valuable than the rest of the catch.
Swordfish steak, popular for barbequing and baking, comes with a heavy toll of other marine life. For example, the illegal Moroccan driftnet fishery, targeting swordfish for the European market, catches one swordfish for every two sharks, killing an estimated 100,000 sharks per year.
"Not everything caught in a net makes it to the dinner table," said Justin Woolford, Manager of WWF's European Fisheries Campaign. "The trail of destruction behind industrialised fishing must be stopped or our children will be left with a barren ocean."
Much loved cod 'n' chips is the dish with the most over-fished ingredient — global cod catches have dropped 70 per cent over the last 30 years. If stocks continue to decline at the current rate, there will be no more Atlantic cod on the menu in less than 15 years.
Prized for sushi and sashimi, Atlantic bluefin tuna is being plundered by pirate fishers. Nearly one-third of all catches of Atlantic bluefin tuna, the world's most valuable fish, come from illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, most of which is carried out by EU fleets.
Sought-after seafood in Europe also leaves its mark on the wider marine environment. In the case of Norwegian lobster, also known as scampi and langoustine, bottom trawling for this delicacy is devastating the sea floor and its inhabitants, such as starfish, shellfish and other crustaceans.
In West Africa, EU fleets are hauling up a range of fish, shrimp and squid for classic European dishes such as paella. These vessels are severely depleting marine resources in the region and threatening food and income security. In Senegal, where 75 per cent of the country relies on fish as a vital source of animal protein, the collapse of fish stocks would be a humanitarian disaster.
"Despite the serious problems within Europe's fisheries, responsible fishers are working hard to secure a future for Europe's favourite fish dishes and the fishing industry," adds Woolford. "The best way for consumers to identify seafood coming from well-managed fisheries is through the Marine Stewardship label."
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