New OSPAR Report demonstrates urgent need to address fisheries impacts on ecosystems

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In a critical plea, 23 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have issued a letter to fisheries ministers of the coastal states, urgently demanding action to protect the fragile marine environment of the Northeast Atlantic. Central to their concerns is the OSPAR Convention (The Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic). The spotlight is on the recently released Quality Status Report 2023 (QSR 2023) of the OSPAR Convention.

The QSR 2023 represents a state-of-the-art assessment that unveils disconcerting trends in the Northeast Atlantic marine ecosystem. This comprehensive report evaluates the health of the ecosystem and the effectiveness of management measures across various aspects covered by the OSPAR Convention. It serves as a crucial benchmark for gauging progress toward OSPAR’s vision of a Northeast Atlantic that is clean, healthy, biologically diverse, productive, sustainable, and resilient to climate change and ocean acidification.

A central concern raised in the QSR 2023 revolves around the impact of fishing activities and related management measures. The report starkly reveals that many negative trends, such as the shrinking size of fish, changes in fish population age structure, disturbances in food webs, and the perilous state of seabird breeding, are largely attributable to fishing pressures. To address these concerns, the 23 NGOs  urge coastal states to embrace an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management. This approach entails setting ecological objectives alongside traditional catch-maximization goals, incorporating ecosystem-focused reference points, and establishing spatial protections for vulnerable species and habitats, such as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Such a strategy, rooted in the latest scientific knowledge and management tools, not only promotes sustainable fisheries but also revitalizes biodiversity and the overall health of the Northeast Atlantic ecosystem.

The urgency of addressing these environmental challenges is paramount. For an in-depth exploration of the concerns outlined in this letter, please find below the letters sent to the Ministers (or equivalent) of the European Union, United Kingdom, Norway, Iceland, Faroe Island and Greenland.

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