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Brussels, 26 June 2014
Questions and Answers about Fishing Opportunities in the EU for 2015
The European Commission has published its annual consultation paper on the state of fish stocks and the preparation for setting next years' fish quotas. The Commission now asks for the views of Member States, the fishing industry and non-governmental organisations in regional Advisory Councils, as well as interested citizens and organisations via an online public consultation. Based on this input, the Commission will make its proposals for the 2015 fishing opportunities during the autumn.
What are fishing opportunities? How are they set?
Starting from a proposal from the Commission, the Council of Ministers (Fisheries Ministers from Member States) and the Commission will decide on a set of Total Allowable Catches (TAC) for most of the important commercial stocks and sea areas outside the Mediterranean Sea. These TACs are divided up among Member States according to long-term pre-agreed percentage shares called quotas. Quotas are administered by Member States, who share out their national quotas among their fishing vessels or groups of fishing vessels. Each quota share represents a right to catch and to land a certain amount of fish within the calendar year. In some fisheries there are accompanying limits on the numbers of days vessels can spend fishing, taking account of how powerful each vessel is.
What's new this year?
The new, reformed Common Fisheries Policy came into force on 1 January 2014. This means that from 1 January 2015 it will be forbidden, for certain fisheries, to throw back to the sea fish once they have been caught: there is an obligation to land these catches. By 2019 all fisheries will be covered, but the obligation starts in 2015 with most of the pelagic fish – species like mackerel, herring, sprat and anchovy - and fisheries in the Baltic Sea. This has implications for the levels of quotas, which can be adjusted according to scientific advice.
The new policy also fixes an objective of reaching maximum sustainable yield (MSY) exploitation rates by 2015 where possible and by 2020 at the latest. This means phasing out overfishing: the MSY rate is the amount of fishing that will deliver the highest long-term catch from a stock, so any fishing above that level is wasteful, harmful and ultimately unprofitable for the fishermen.
The third novelty is that regionalised management is advancing. Discussions have started in Member States about management of the landing obligation (the discard plans) and more discussions will take place when multiannual plans have been adopted. Rather than detailed decisions being taken in Brussels, Member States acting together will decide on these.
Is the policy working?
Yes. In the Northeast Atlantic area, which includes the Baltic and North Seas, the proportion of stocks overfished has dropped from 86% (30 stocks overfished out of 35 assessed) in 2009 to 41% (19 out of 46 stocks) in 2014. Many more stocks are now known not to be overfished, as shown in the graph and table below. The number of assessed stocks has also increased over recent years.
Stocks assessed as not overfished in the northeast Atlantic, North Sea and Baltic Sea in 2014
What about in the Mediterranean and Black Seas?
There is relatively little scientific advice – but the available knowledge suggests a worrying situation. Over 96% of assessed stocks of bottom-living fish stocks are overfished in the Mediterranean, and 100% in the Black Sea. Of the pelagic stocks in midwater, more than 50% are overfished, and 33% of pelagic stocks in the Black Sea are overfished.
So why don't we implement TACs and quotas in the Mediterranean?
In the Mediterranean, fisheries is not regulated by TACs and quotas (except for Bluefin tuna) but through management measures set out in the Mediterranean Regulation (Regulation 1967/2006).
The reason for this is that the situation is very complicated, with more fish stocks, more fishing fleets, and a great number of small boats fishing small quantities. In line with the Mediterranean Regulation, Member States are adopting plans at a national or a regional level to limit fishing effort (the size of the fleet and/or the amount of time they can fish) to sustainable levels on a sector-by-sector basis. More of these plans are needed, and they should be used to phase out overfishing and reach the objectives of the new Common Fisheries Policy.
Where does the scientific advice come from?
Scientists working in Member States take samples of fish from commercial landings and from discards, and use research vessels to sample the amounts of fish in the sea at different places and different times of year. From these data, they can work out how much sustainable catch can be taken in the next year. The scientists have to share their data and work together in international scientific committees, because the fish migrate and mix across different sea areas. The recommendations are passed to the European Commission, who use them to make proposals on TACs each year.
The Commission's proposals are notably based on scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) and other independent bodies.
For further information
The Communication can be read at: Link
Press release: IP/14/724