Posted on 02 November 2016.
In preparation for the December Fisheries Council, where EU Member States will negotiate fishing quotas in the Atlantic and North Sea for 2017, the European Commission is presenting its proposal on fishing quotas for next year in the Atlantic and the North Sea. This is the annual scheme for the amount of fish which can be caught by European Union fishermen from the main commercial fish stocks next year, also referred to as Total Allowable Catches (TACs). On the basis of the scientific advice received, the Commission proposes to maintain or increase the current fishing quotas for 42 stocks which are in good health, and reduce catches for 28 stocks which are faring poorly.
Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, comments: “Our goal is clear: we need to bring all stocks to healthy and sustainable levels as soon as possible so that our fishing industry can remain viable. This is not up to the Commission alone: stakeholders are fundamental enablers in this process. We are proposing an ambitious programme for 2017 and the only way forward will be to work with fishermen, scientists and national authorities to develop real solutions that lead to fisheries that are both economically profitable and sustainable.”
Later this autumn the Commission will also propose some additional quotas, the so-called ‘quota top-ups’, for the fisheries that fall under the landing obligation in 2017. These extra quotas are granted on account of the fact that fishermen can no longer discard the fish caught unintentionally but have to land it. The allowed quota is therefore increased to facilitate the transition to the new system of no discards. The exact top-ups per fishery will be determined on the basis of scientific advice expected in mid-November and of the quantities that need to be landed according to the regional discard plans.
The proposal covers stocks managed by the EU alone and stocks managed with third countries, such as Norway, or through Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) across the world’s oceans. International negotiations for many of the stocks concerned are still ongoing and some stocks are awaiting scientific advice. For these, the figures will be included at a later stage, once the negotiations with third countries and within RFMOs have taken place.
The current proposal will be submitted for discussion and adoption by the Ministers of the Member States at the Fisheries Council in December, to be applied as from 1 January 2017.
Details of the Proposal
The Commission’s objective, under the reformed Common Fisheries Policy, is to have all stocks fished sustainably by respecting the Maximum Sustainable Yield of a fishery. Fishing at Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) levels allows the fishing industry to take the highest amount of fish from the sea while keeping fish stocks healthy. The Commission proposes maximum fishing levels on the basis of scientific advice received from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). This year, ICES advice was given for 34 stocks.
* Stocks at sustainable levels
For some EU stocks already at MSY, such as anglerfish in Southern Waters, common sole in the Skagerrak/Kattegat and sole in the Western Channel, the Commission proposes to raise the TACs. Increases are also proposed for Norway lobster in the Kattegat/Skagerrak, horse mackerel in Atlantic Iberian waters and haddock in the Irish Sea and Celtic Sea. The continued growth of the Northern hake stock also justifies a new substantial increase in the TAC.
* Stocks fished unsustainably
At the same time, some stocks still give reasons for concern – for example cod stocks continue to decline in West of Ireland, in the Celtic Sea, in the Bay of Biscay and in Atlantic Iberian Waters. Sole in the Irish Sea is very vulnerable. The advice for whiting in the West of Scotland is for zero catches and decreases are proposed for megrims and pollack in the Celtic and Irish seas. In the Kattegat a reduction for plaice is proposed.
* The scientific advice for sea bass is also very alarming. The Commission has included in its proposal actions for managing sea bass in 2017. These management measures would allow some fishing possibilities to the small-scale fishermen that depend on this stock, but take into account that ICES advises to cut the overall landings of sea bass.
* Stocks for which scientific data are lacking
For cases where data are not sufficient to properly estimate the stock’s size, the Commission proposal follows the advice of ICES, i.e. cuts or increases of a maximum of 20%. Following a common statement in 2012, 26 data-limited stocks were set at a lower TAC but maintained for 5 years. For 2 of these stocks, updated scientific advice demonstrates that the stocks have declined further and an additional TAC reduction is now needed. This concerns sprat in the Channel and plaice in the Celtic sea and South-West of Ireland.