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Brussels, 3 September 2014
Questions and Answers about Fishing Opportunities in the EU for 2015
What are fishing opportunities? How are they set?
During the autumn 2014 and starting from proposals from the Commission, the Council of Ministers (Fisheries Ministers from Member States) and the European Commission will decide on the level of fishing opportunities, called Total Allowable Catches (TAC), for most of the important commercial fish stocks and sea areas, except the Mediterranean Sea, to apply from 1 January 2015.
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.
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.
Fishing opportunities for the Baltic are proposed by the Commission on 3 September (IP/14/959) and discussed/adopted by Ministers in October. For deep-sea stocks and stocks in the Black Sea the proposals are scheduled for September/October and Council adoption in November. The largest package covering the Atlantic, North Sea and other areas is scheduled to be proposed by the Commission in October and adopted in December.
For further information