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Brussels, 30 May 2008.

Annual policy statement on fishing opportunities for 2009 – questions and answers

Why are TACs consistently set much higher than scientific advice or the Commission's own proposals?

While the introduction of multi-annual management plans has helped make the setting of fishing opportunities from year to year a more stable and more rational process, guided by clear scientific criteria, it has not resolved the problem of TACs being generally set too high. In the case of stocks which are not managed in accordance with long-term plans, this is often because of short-term political pressures. In the case of those stocks which do fall under long-term plans, however, it is partly because the rule of limiting inter-annual variations in TACs to 15% increase or decrease has prevented the EU from acting decisively to protect stocks whose biological condition is too poor for them to respond to more gradual measures. This rule also means that when stocks do show real recovery, the industry is not able to take full advantage of this increase in available resources.

How will TACs be set in future?

TACs will now be proposed by the Commission in line with the following revised criteria.

Scientific advice
Action to take in setting TAC
Stock exploited at the maximum sustainable yield rate[1].
Aim to set the TAC to the forecast catch corresponding to the fishing mortality that will deliver the highest yield in the long term, but do not change the TAC by more than 25%.
Stock overexploited compared to maximum sustainable yield but inside safe biological limits.
Aim to set the TAC to the higher value of (a) to the forecast catch corresponding to taking the highest yield in the long term, or (b) fishing at an unchanged mortality rate, but do not change the TAC by more than 15%.
Stock outside safe biological limits
Aim to set the TAC to the forecast catch that will result in a 30% reduction in fishing mortality rate, but do not decrease the fishing mortality so far as to prejudice long-term yields and do not reduce the TAC by more than 20%.
Stock is subject to long-term plan and scientists advise on the catch that corresponds to the plan.
The TAC must be set by following the relevant plan.
Stock is short-lived and a one-year forecast cannot be provided.
A provisional TAC is set and will be changed when new information is available during the year.
State of the stock not known precisely and STECF advises on an appropriate catch level.
Aim to set the TAC according to STECF advice but do not change the TAC by more than 15%.
State of the stock not known precisely and STECF advises to reduce fishing effort.
The TAC should be reduced by up to 15% and STECF should be asked to advise on the appropriate level of effort.
State of the stock not known precisely and STECF advises the stock is increasing.
The TAC should be increased by up to 15%.
State of the stock not known precisely and STECF advises the stock is decreasing.
The TAC should be decreased by up to 15%.
STECF advises a zero catch, a reduction to the lowest possible level or similar advice.
The TAC should be reduced by at least 25%. Recovery measures should be implemented including effort reductions and introduction of more selective fishing gear.
There is no STECF advice.
TACs should be adjusted towards recent real catch levels but should not be changed by more than 15% per year or Member States should develop an implementation plan to provide advice within a short time.

Why does the existing days-at-sea system for managing fishing effort not work?

The days-at-sea system was intended to reduce fishing effort in line with the reductions in TACs, in order to reduce discarding and remove the opportunity for illegal fishing. As such, it was an essential part of a number of long-term plans, including those for cod. However, as the cod plans have illustrated, the large number of complex derogations introduced at the request of Member States have effectively neutralised the impact of the scheme, and made it almost unworkable. Thus for example, between 2004 and 2006, fishing effort on cod decreased by only 12 % in the Kattegat, 9 % in the Skagerrak, the North Sea and the Eastern Channel, 24 % to the West of Scotland, and 17 % in the Irish Sea. These reductions are far smaller than those which would have been required to bring about a significant reduction in fishing mortality.

The current system allows offsetting the decrease in the days at sea by complex derogations. Some of these even allocate fishing rights to inactive vessels, which can then be transferred to active vessels. In order to meet realistic effort reduction targets in the future, a more effective approach is required.

How will the new kilowatt-days system of effort management work?

The kilowatt-days approach would let Member States themselves decide on a balance between fleet capacity and fishing opportunities. Effort ceilings (expressed in kilowatt-days) would be set for groups of vessels or fleet segments based on recent levels of real effort deployed. These ceilings would then be managed at national level by the Member States. This would also let Member States fine-tune allocations of kW-days to encourage low-discard fishing. Reductions in effort would be proportionate to the targeted reductions in fishing mortality for each segment. This approach has already been introduced in the revision of the Cod Recovery Plan adopted by the Commission in April. It is now proposed to immediately extend this approach to cover all effort limitations set in the 2009 TACs proposal.

What is the timetable for consultation and adoption of fishing opportunities for 2009?

The Commission invites Member States and stakeholders to submit their comments on its policy statement as soon as possible, and in any case by 30 June, so that they can be taken into account when formulating proposals for 2009 fishing opportunities. The Commission itself will actively pursue technical consultations on a number of issues with both national authorities and stakeholders, in particular on the proposed revision to the effort management system.

Scientific advice concerning most demersal stocks will be available from STECF in early July, and an earlier start to discussions on fishing opportunities can then be made. Advancing the autumn round of decision-making by more than a few weeks is impossible because the advice for the large pelagic shared stocks will only be available in October. This will be needed before a full package of fishing opportunities can be negotiated.

The timetable foreseen is as follows:

Fishing Opportunities Regulation
Date of Commission Proposal
Possible date of adoption
Black Sea
October Council
Baltic Sea
October Council
Deep-sea species
November Council
All other areas
December Council

See also IP/08/828

[1] By maximum sustainable yield (MSY), we mean the highest yield that may be taken from a fish stock without lowering its productive potential for future years. For more information, see the Commission's Communication on implementing sustainability in EU fisheries through maximum sustainable yield of 5 July 2006, IP/06/931.

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