2017 EU fishing limits agreed, 44 stocks brought to MSY

Published on
December 14, 2016

European Union ministers have reached an agreement on next year’s commercial fishing opportunities in the Atlantic, North Sea and Black Sea, following discussions at the annual Agriculture and Fisheries Council.

The agreement is based on the objective of achieving maximum sustainable yields (MSYs) by 2017 where possible, and by 2020 at the latest, while taking into account socio-economic circumstances. 

Following the council’s decision, the number of fish stocks managed at MSY levels will increase to 44 next year. In 2009, only five stocks had total allowable catches (TACs) set at MSY.

The agreement also tackles the question of choke species in mixed fisheries by providing elements of flexibility. 

"Sustainability has been the driver of today's agreement: the sustainability of our fish stocks, but also that of our fisheries sector. We have successfully reconciled different opinions to the benefit of all parties involved, and established the basis for the achievement of maximum sustainable yield," said Gabriela Matečná, minister for agriculture and rural development of Slovakia and president of the council. 

Negotiations were largely based on the European Commission (EC) proposal, which established fishing opportunities in the form of yearly TACs and quotas by fish stocks in the different fishing zones. These concerned stocks that the EU manages either autonomously or jointly with third countries, for instance with Norway in the North Sea and the Skagerrak, or through Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs). 

The proposal was also based on the scientific advice provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), which delivered its last annual advice on 30 June 2016. 

Karmenu Vella, the EU commissioner for environment, maritime affairs and fisheries, said the agreement was another important step toward sustainable fisheries.

“I am proud to say that our push for healthy fish stocks is starting to pay off: following years of disciplined fisheries policy, scientists this year advised increasing catch limits for several stocks in the Atlantic and North Sea. This is encouraging, and shows that sustainability really does get fishermen the best deal," said Vella. 

The Agriculture and Fisheries Council said the economic performance of the EU fleet had improved considerably, from a loss-making position in 2008 to generating increasingly higher net profits in the past three years and that this increased profitability was driven by the increase in the amount of stocks being fished sustainably.

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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