The European Commission has proposed fishing opportunities for 2014 for the Atlantic and the North Sea, as well as in international waters. This is the annual proposal for the amount of fish which can be caught by EU fishermen from the main commercial fish stocks next year. The proposal sets levels of total allowable catch (TAC) and fishing effort both for stocks managed exclusively by the EU, and for stocks managed with third countries such as Norway or through Regional Fisheries Management Organisations across the world’s oceans.
International negotiations for many of the stocks concerned are still on-going. The proposal therefore only includes figures for about half of the TACs at this stage. It will be completed once negotiations with third parties and organisations have taken place.
For the stocks not shared with third countries, the Commission proposes to increase or maintain the TACs for 36 stocks, and reduce them for 36 stocks, in line with the scientific advice.
The Commission’s ultimate goal, and one of the pillars of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), is to have all stocks fished at sustainable levels, the so-called Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY). Whenever possible, the scientists advise how to bring the stocks to MSY levels. This year, the so-called “MSY advice” could be issued for 22 EU stocks. This is a significant step forward as far as the availability and quality of scientific data are concerned.
Maria Damanaki, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said: “The Commission proposal contains good news for some stocks, while some cuts are required for others. Overall, our knowledge of many stocks has improved which enables sound management decisions to be made. For stocks where negotiations are on-going we will, as ever, make every effort to obtain the best outcome for our fishermen. We hope that our partners and the international community will mirror our commitment to sustainable fisheries.”
The present proposal shall be discussed by the Member States’ ministers at the December Fisheries Council and will apply from 1 January 2014.
Details of the proposal
For some EU stocks at MSY, such as herring in the Irish Sea, Northern hake, Megrims in Iberian waters or plaice in the Celtic Sea TACs can be raised.
At the same time, for some stocks in a poor state, the picture has unfortunately not greatly improved since last year. Cod stocks in the Irish Sea and the Kattegat continue to be in a dire state, and the poor data hampers the management of these stocks. Sole in the Irish Sea is at extremely low levels. Advice for haddock in the Celtic Sea demands a considerable TAC cut, so that the stock can be brought to MSY levels. Cod and whiting in the West of Scotland, subject to extremely high rates of discarding, are at a risk of collapse.
For stocks where data is not good enough to properly estimate their size, the Commission proposal reflects the advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) to adapt the TAC up or down by a maximum of 20%. Following a Council decision last year on precautionary reductions, TACS are proposed at the same level as in 2013 for 21 of these stocks.
For a limited number of EU stocks, the scientific advice has been received only recently, or it will be released later this month. For these stocks, the advice needs to be further analysed before a TAC figure will be proposed, later in the autumn.
For fish stocks shared with third countries (Norway, Faroe Islands, Greenland, Iceland, Russia), the European Commission, on behalf of the EU, negotiates towards the end of each year with these countries on the quantities of fish to be caught the following year, based on scientific advice.
For the stocks in international waters and for highly migratory species, such as tuna, the European Commission, representing the EU, negotiates fishing opportunities in the framework of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs). These must subsequently be transposed into EU law.