“What’s that on that picture, Great-Grandpa?”atlantic_cod.jpg

“Ah, that’s fish, a kind of animals without arms or legs that used to swim around in the oceans when I was young, children. We used to eat them.”

“Like jellyfish?”

“Eh… not quite.”


This is the kind of conversation I do not wish to have with my great-grandchildren. Neither do the European Commissioners, who in about an hour from when this was written (on my laptop travelling on the Brussels Metro by the way) will present their latest attempt to save the world’s free-living fish.

They have tried over and over again to persuade fishermen in the Union what the former Commissioner Franz Fischler used to say: In order for there to be fisheries, there must be fish. But for some unimaginable reason, fishermen and –women have been completely incapable to comprehend this simple equation.

Time and time again, the increasingly frustrated European Commission has tried to slash the amount of fish that can be dragged out of the waters, and every time, protests have made the politicians in the Council to coward away. And then the EU gets the blame for not acting enough.

Protests about what? “Ooooohh, we’ll have to scrap our boats, oooooohhh, our livelihood is threatened, oooooohhhh, our heritage is in jeopardy, oooooohhhhh, our picturesque fishing villages will die”, moan the fishers.

Of course all this will happen – if they don’t cut back their fishing quotas. Which they utterly refuse to accept, because all that is in the long term. Instead, they push the ministers they have elected to take stupid decisions that will satisfy them in the short term.

Basically as clever as trying to get warm on a cold day by peeing in your pants.

As if that were not enough, the amount of fish that can legally be caught – which, remember, is already way too much to ensure that stocks will recover – is only one competitor for the quickly depleting stocks. Another is huge illegal catches. And yet another is human stupidity.

It turns out that much fish is being thrown back into the sea – dead, that is – because fishers’ quotas have already been filled. Or if they’re simply of a kind that the vessel that catches them does not have a quota for. Now, these quotas were put there in the first place to stop too many fish from being killed, but when fishers have filled their quotas, they thus tackle (sic!) the problem by killing even more fish.

Cod, one of the most endangered species, has already become extremely rare, and I for one have only seen it at one restaurant recently. At our local supermarkets, it’s gone. Period. Worse still, fishes used to replace cod – like pollock and hoki – are also becoming equally rare.

Environment groups warn that there is a very real risk that our great-grandchildren will only know of jellyfish in the seas and tofu on their plates. Whether or not the European Commission can come up with something that can change this very alarming trend is something you will read about in Foodwire.


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