Brussels, 11 June 2007
Commission welcomes Council´s adoption of measures to rebuild depleted fish stocks, strengthen RACs and control alien species in aquaculture
The Commission welcomes the adoption today by the Council meeting in Luxembourg of five proposals on a range of fisheries issues. These include measures for the recovery of the severely depleted European eel stock, the transposition into European law of the international recovery plan for bluefin tuna, and a management plan for plaice and sole in the North Sea. Council also adopted a regulation governing the introduction of alien species into European waters for aquaculture purposes, and another to provide additional funding for the Regional Advisory Councils (RACs). At the time of going to press, debate continued with a view to reaching political agreement on both the multi-annual plan for Baltic cod and the Fisheries Partnership Agreement (FPA) with Greenland.
Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, Joe Borg, commented, "The decisions taken by Council today mark an important step on the way to ensuring the sustainability of European fisheries. I am glad that the severely depleted eel and bluefin tuna stocks will shortly receive the protection that they so badly need. Indeed, this protection will not come one day too soon."
The Commission adopted its proposal for the recovery of European eel in October 2005. After lengthy discussions at the Council meetings in April and May, the Commission is glad that Council was able to reach agreement on the restocking measures that will be crucial to the recovery of the stock. Under the new regulation, each Member State must submit to the Commission, by 31 December 2008, a national Eel Management Plan that outlines the measures that it will take in order to achieve the objective of 40% escapement of silver eel (adults) from inland waters to the sea and to spawning grounds. A Member State may submit specific plans for different river basins within its territory. Member States sharing river basins must endeavour to prepare joint management plans. The management plans will then be evaluated by the Commission´s Scientific Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) before final approval is granted by the Commission.
Member States that catch glass eel (juvenile) will set aside 60% of their annual catch for restocking of European inland waters so as to increase escapement of adult eel to the sea. This 60% will be phased in gradually by 2013. In case of significant differences between the price of glass eel destined for restocking and the price of those marketed for other uses, the percentage required to be set aside for restocking will be temporarily reduced in order to counter the price discrepancies.
North Sea flat fish
Council adopted a multi-annual plan for the management of plaice and sole in the North Sea. Following advice from ICES that the plaice stock in the North Sea was outside safe biological limits, and following consultations with the industry, the Commission proposed a multi-annual plan in 2005. The plan will manage plaice together with sole, since the two species are caught together, particularly in the beam trawl fisheries. The plan establishes parameters for the joint management of these species in a two-step approach: it will first bring the stocks within safe biological limits, before going on to a level corresponding to Maximum Sustainable Yield in the long term. The plan establishes the principles to be used in setting annual TACs and adjustments in fishing effort for the fleets concerned.
Regional Advisory Councils
Speaking of today's Council adoption of the amendment to the legal basis of the Regional Advisory Councils, Commissioner Borg said, "A more secure funding basis for RACs will allow them to strengthen the important role which they already play in the management of the CFP." The amendment will revise the RACs' legal basis so as to increase the amount of EU funding which they currently receive. Under the new provisions, EU funding will become a stable annual commitment covering up to 90% of their costs, rather than being phased out after five years. The annual allocation per RAC will be EUR 250 000. In a declaration, the Commission stated that the legal basis would also be revised to ensure that sufficient funding is allocated for translation and interpretation to enable all stakeholders to participate fully and on an equal footing in the RACs proceedings.
Alien species in aquaculture
The new Council Regulation adopted today will regulate the introduction of non-native species in aquaculture to prevent negative impacts on the surrounding environment. The introduction of such species can have an adverse impact on ecosystems and cause significant loss of biodiversity. In future the Community can optimise the benefits associated with low-risk new species for the continued development of the aquaculture industry, safe in the knowledge that the new permit system, to be introduced at Member States level, will sift-out potentially damaging candidate species or associated "hitch-hikers". The new legislation which has been informed by extensive consultation, builds on existing voluntary codes of practice formulated by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea and the European Inland Fisheries Advisory Commission. "The adoption of the new regulation marks further progress in the EU's Strategy for the sustainable development of European aquaculture," Commissioner Borg said.
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