Catch cuts for 28 Atlantic, North Sea stocks in Brussels’ 2017 quota proposals

Published on
October 28, 2016

Ahead of the December Fisheries Council, the European Commission (EC) has proposed to increase or keep unchanged the total allowable catch (TAC) for 42 stocks in the Atlantic and North Sea. But it also intends to push for catch reductions for 28 stocks that are judged to be in poor condition.

The EC is also proposing additional “quota top-ups,” for fisheries that fall under the landing obligation in 2017, granted on account that fishermen would no longer discard the fish caught unintentionally but have to land it. The allowed quota is therefore increased to facilitate the transition to the new system of no discards.

The exact top-ups per fishery will be determined on the basis of scientific advice expected in mid-November and of the quantities that need to be landed according to the regional discard plans.

"Our goal is clear: we need to bring all stocks to healthy and sustainable levels as soon as possible so that our fishing industry can remain viable. This is not up to the Commission alone: stakeholders are fundamental enablers in this process. We are proposing an ambitious program for 2017 and the only way forward will be to work with fishermen, scientists and national authorities to develop real solutions that lead to fisheries that are both economically profitable and sustainable," said Karmenu Vella, EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

The EC’s proposals cover stocks managed by the EU alone and stocks managed with third countries, such as Norway, or through Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) across the world's oceans. International negotiations for many of the stocks concerned are still ongoing and some stocks are awaiting scientific advice. For these, the figures will be included at a later stage, once the negotiations with third countries and within RFMOs have taken place.

For some EU stocks deemed already at maximum sustainable yield (MSY), such as anglerfish in southern waters, sole in the Skagerrak/Kattegat and sole in the Western Channel, the commission proposes raising the TACs. Increases are also proposed for nephrops in the Kattegat/Skagerrak, horse mackerel in Atlantic Iberian waters and haddock in the Irish Sea and Celtic Sea.

The continued growth of the Northern hake stock also justifies a new substantial increase in the TAC, it said.

But the EC stressed there were some stocks that “still give reason for concern,” such as cod in the west of Ireland, in the Celtic Sea, in the Bay of Biscay and in Atlantic Iberian waters.

“Sole in the Irish Sea is very vulnerable. The advice for whiting in the west of Scotland is for zero catches and decreases are proposed for megrims and pollack in the Celtic and Irish seas. In the Kattegat a reduction for plaice is proposed,” it said.

The scientific advice for seabass is “also very alarming,” and so the commission has proposal actions for managing bass next year that would allow some fishing possibilities for the small-scale fishermen that depend on this stock, but take into account that the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) advises to cut the overall landings.

The EC’s proposals will be submitted for discussion and adoption by member states’ ministers at the Fisheries Council. TACs will apply from 1 January, 2017.

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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