Fisheries ministers must heed the law and put a stop to overfishing at their crucial meeting next week, the chair of the European Parliament's Fisheries Committee has warned.
The EU common fisheries policy insists that overfishing must end and maximum sustainable yield (MSY) be achieved by 2020.
The annual meeting to set catch limits, this year being held in Brussels on 16-17 December, will be the last occasion that fisheries ministers will have to make the changes needed to achieve the legal target.
The European Commission has made proposals on 72 stocks in the Atlantic and the North Sea in accordance with scientific recommendations.
For 32 stocks the catch limits are either increased or remain the same. Cuts are required, however, in the catch of 40 stocks if overfishing of depleted fisheries is to be brought to an end.
Liberal Democrat MEP and Chair of the Fisheries Committee, Chris Davies, fears that political compromises will triumph over scientific reality:
"It saddens me that the target of achieving sustainability was set nearly seven years ago but some of the most significant changes needed have been left until the last minute.
'Ministers must bite the bullet, stop thinking about the short term, follow the scientific advice, and agree to reductions in fish catches when these are needed to stop overfishing.
"Europe's fishing industry is already profitable and doing well, but if it is to have a secure long term future we must have healthy and sustainable fish stocks."