The European Commission has launched a consultation on catch quotas for 2012, asking for the first time for opinions of all stakeholders including the general public.

The online consultation runs until mid July and is specifically targeting the opinions of European Citizens on the way in which levels of fishing effort and fishing quotas are set in relation to scientific advice about sustainable fishing.

The consultation focuses on two major recurring problems. The first is the mismatch between scientific assessments which determine sustainable catch levels and the on average much higher final catch limits decided by fisheries Ministers who regularly ignore the science. Commissioner Damanaki wants to tighten the rules so that decisions are closer to the advice.

The second issue is what to do when scientific predictions and recommendations are uncertain because the available data is insufficient. The Commission proposes that in these cases the precautionary principle
is applied and TACs are reduced by 25% or more if necessary until the concerned Member States come up with data for scientists to work with.

The Commission consultation paper highlights that while some EU fish stocks have improved, the majority is still considered overfished. The EU has committed to end overfishing and to manage all fisheries at levels enabling Maximum Sustainable Yield by 2015. With this goal fast approaching, efforts must be stepped up.

At the launch of the consultation, Commissioner Maria Damanaki for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries reminded the press that bringing all overfished stocks back to sustainable levels will benefit people and the environment. More fish in the sea will help to bring back profitability to European fishing communities and ensure that less effort and time is needed at sea to bring back the same amount of catch, resulting in less impact on the marine environment, reduced by-catch of unwanted species, less fish discarded and less CO2 emitted.

Seas At Risk will respond to the consultation and inform fisheries Ministers of its opinion.

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