The European Parliament Fisheries Committee voted last week on the multiannual management plan for demersal species in the North Sea. The outcome of the decision contained both negative and positive aspects.

Demersal species live near the bottom of the sea and, in the area of the North Sea, represent almost 70% of the catch. One of the decisions adopted by the Fisheries Committee focused on making best available scientific advice a precondition for setting certain management measures. This is an essential principle to ensure sustainable fisheries practices. On the downside, the Committee agreed as well on fishing mortality ranges that at their upper limit can exceed the fishing rates above scientifically advised sustainable levels.

The decision is an important step in the process of the adoption of regional multi-annual plans. These are the major legal tool for implementing the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy in the different sea basins and should ensure that fishing is carried out in an environmentally sustainable way. The plans have to include objectives for sustainable fishing limits, as well as provisions related to the landing obligation to avoid and reduce as far as possible unwanted catches. A first management plan for the Baltic was adopted in 2016. The multi-annual management plans for the North Sea and Adriatic Sea are currently being discussed by the European Parliament and the Council.

The Committee decided also in favour of a plenary vote in September instead of rushing straight into trialogue negotiations with the Council. The Council agreed on its General Approach for this file in March 2017.

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