Fisheries: New Commission step towards sustainability of northern hake
European Commission - IP/09/408 17/03/2009
Brussels, 17 March 2009
The European Commission today adopted a long-term plan to improve further the state of the northern hake stock in EU waters. This plan will replace the recovery plan which has been in place since 2004, and which has successfully helped the northern hake stock recover from almost collapse to the safe target size advised by scientists. The new plan wants to carry this positive trend forward through an approach that will secure the long-term sustainability of the northern hake stock. The concrete benefits of the plan will be higher catches, lower costs, less impact on the marine environment and lower discards of juvenile hake. It will notably benefit the long-term profitability for the fishing sector targeting this stock.
European Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Joe Borg commented, "There is a consensus on the need to replace the recovery plan for this stock so that we can make further headway. The Commission has listened carefully to stakeholders. The new plan is part of the Commission's commitment to a sustainable approach to fisheries which, in turn, will help sustain a profitable fishing sector supplying Europe's citizens with a nutritious part of their diet."
The next step, via this proposed new plan, is to bring the stock up to its maximum sustainable yield (MSY), i.e. the point at which the largest catch can continuously be taken from the stock without diminishing its numbers. This MSY approach will in the long-term ensure an increased number of fish in the seas, greater yields for fishermen and stable catch limits.
The plan will set about this in a number of ways. For instance, it will set new targets to provide for the highest possible long-term catches. A flexible approach will also allow catch limits to be fine-tuned in line with the biological condition of the hake stock concerned. Fishing mortality – the proportion of hake removed from the stock by fishing – will be reduced year on year until its target rate has been met. Variations in total allowable catches will, however, be limited in order to ensure continuity in fishing activities.
Where scientists are unable to provide the Commission with adequate data and advice, the plan now establishes clear rules on fishing mortality, instead of the ad hoc arrangements followed hitherto. This will make for greater clarity in the decisions taken.
The new proposal will also bring stricter monitoring, inspection and control for vessels, in line with the proposed new Control Regulation.
European hake has historically been an important source of food. Hake is a deep-sea member of the cod family and is primarily caught by bottom and pelagic trawls. The northern hake stock can be found in the Kattegat and Skagerrak straits adjoining Norway, Sweden and Denmark, in the North Sea, in the Channel, in waters to the west of Scotland, all around Ireland and in the Bay of Biscay. The original recovery plan was started, because the stock of adult hake had been brought to the brink of collapse.
The Commission's new plan is based on input from stakeholders and on scientific advice from both the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and the Commission's own Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF).