21st February

Catch cuts across 28 fish stocks proposed for 2016

The European Commission proposes to maintain or increase fish quotas for 35 stocks and reduce catches for 28 stocks in 2016, based on scientific advice received. Also proposed for the first time is quota ‘top ups’ for all fisheries, to help fishermen in the transition to the new landing obligation that comes into force on some demersal species in January. This extra quota aims to compensate fishermen for the extra fish they will have to land.

2016 proposal TAC cuts

Stocks with proposals for decreased TAC

The landing obligation began in 2015 with pelagic fisheries and is being phased in until 2019 when it will apply to all commercial fisheries subject to the TAC regime or are under a minimum size. Details of the implementation, fishery by fishery, will be included in the multiannual plans or in specific discard plans when no multiannual plan is in place.

Details include the species covered; provisions on catch documentation; minimum conservation reference sizes and exemptions (for fish that may survive after returning to sea and specific de minimus discard allowance under certain conditions). Quota management will also become more flexible in its application to facilitate the landing obligation.

A pillar of the current Common Fisheries Policy (2015-2020) stipulates catch limits should be set that are sustainable and maintain fish stocks in the long-term by respecting the principle of ‘maximum sustainable yield’. Fishing at MSY levels allows the fishing industry to take the highest amount of fish from the sea while keeping fish stocks healthy.

“My objective is clear and ambitious. I want us to bring all stocks to healthy and sustainable levels as soon as possible,” remarked Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

Proposals snapshot

For some EU stocks already at MSY, such as megrims in the North Sea and horse mackerel in Iberian and Western Waters, the Commission proposes to increase TACs. Cod stocks in the Irish Sea and the Celtic Sea however are below MSY and will see a cut of 30%. A cut of 100% is also proposed for sole in the Irish Sea due to very poor performance.

Advice for haddock and cod in the Celtic Sea proposes considerable cuts of 27% and 30% respectively, to bring them to MSY levels. For many of these stocks, the advice is for greater selective fishing techniques so that young fish are not caught before they can reproduce and replenish the stocks. This is particularly urgent for fisheries in the Celtic Sea and Western waters where a big effort is needed to implement the selectivity measures advised by scientists.

At a recent meeting with Commissioner Vella, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, said he outlined some of the challenges facing Ireland’s fishing industry, particularly for the whitefish and prawn fleets with the introduction of the landing obligation.

“The discards ban will directly apply next year to our important prawn fleet and Celtic Sea whiting fleet. I will be working at the December Council to achieve quotas that take account of this new situation where all catches in these fisheries must be landed,” he said.

While supporting the introduction of quotas that respect scientific advice, Minister Coveney said he would be looking for a “phasing in” of the new limits recommended by the scientific advice for some “key economic stocks” that will be fished by fleets becoming subject to the discard ban.

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