Today the European Commission released its Communication on fishing opportunities for 2015. It shows a clear willingness to implement the new Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), but also reveals a worrying deteriorating picture of the status of fish stocks in European waters.

This annual publication presents plans to reach the new objective of ending overfishing and rebuild fish stocks in accordance with the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY). It gives an overview of the development of European fish stocks and outlines the Commission approach to quota proposals for 2015. It also delineates the integration of the first discard plans for Baltic salmon, for pelagic and industrial fisheries as well as key elements of multi-annual management plans that will be proposed in the near future.

The Communication shows the improvements that setting fishing levels in line with the MSY objective have brought to certain fisheries. In the Baltic (cod) and in the North Sea (sole, plaice), stock sizes have improved and fishing operators have increased their income, in some cases even despite strongly increased fuel costs.

However, the Communication also shows that now 41% of fish stocks in the North East Atlantic, including the Baltic and North Sea, are overfished and 91% of Mediterranean fish stocks (as opposed to 39% and 88% respectively in 2013). The status of 55% of the stocks in the North-East Atlantic is unknown, which is more than last year, and of those stocks of which the status is known, there are less within safe biological limits than last year. Most shocking is that over the past three years, during the negotiations on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy - that aims at stock recovery - the Council ignored scientific advice and set higher fishing limits than recommended to achieve sustainable catch for an increasing percentage of stocks (from 11% in 2012 to 35% in 2014).

To reverse this picture, the Council will need to break with its bad habit of ignoring scientific advice when it comes to fishing limits. Ministers need to show they are serious about the goal they have set themselves to end overfishing by 2015 where possible and by 2020 at the latest in order to rebuild fish stocks. Between October and December they will decide about fishing opportunities in 2015 for the Baltic, Atlantic, North Sea, Black Sea and for deep sea species in 2015 and 2016. Meanwhile the Commission invites stakeholders to comment on this Communication before 30 September, in order to incorporate the feedback in the total allowable catch (TAC) and quota proposals for the Council discussions.

Links:

European Commission Communication COM (2014) 388

 

European Commission Consultation

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