The European Commission has set out its proposals for the Atlantic and North Sea next year ahead of this year’s December Fisheries Council. Under these, hake looks positive with a proposal for a substantial quota increase, but the outlook for sea bass is grim.
The positive news is that the Commission is proposing to increase or keep unchanged quotas for 42 stocks, while the unwelcome news is that it intends to push for catches of 28 stocks judged to be in poor condition to be reduced.
The Commission also proposes some additional quota top-ups, for the fisheries that fall under the landing obligation in 2017, granted on account of the fact that fishermen can no longer discard the fish caught unintentionally but have to land it. The allowed quota is therefore increased to facilitate the transition to the new system of no discards.
According to the Commission, the exact top-ups per fishery will be determined on the basis of scientific advice expected in mid-November and of the quantities that need to be landed according to the regional discard plans.
The proposal covers stocks managed by the EU alone and stocks managed with third countries, such as Norway, or through Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) across the world’s oceans. International negotiations for many of the stocks concerned are still ongoing and some stocks are awaiting scientific advice. For these, the figures will be included at a later stage, once the negotiations with third countries and within RFMOs have taken place.
For some EU stocks already at MSY, such as anglerfish in Southern Waters, sole in the Skagerrak/Kattegat and sole in the Western Channel, the Commission proposes to raise the TACs. Increases are also proposed for nephrops in the Kattegat/Skagerrak, horse mackerel in Atlantic Iberian waters and haddock in the Irish Sea and Celtic Sea.
The Commission states that the continued growth of the Northern hake stock also justifies a new substantial increase in the TAC.
Stocks that there are concerns about include cod West of Ireland, in the Celtic Sea, in the Bay of Biscay and in Atlantic Iberian waters, and sole in the Irish Sea is seen as being very vulnerable.
The advice for whiting in the West of Scotland is for zero catches and decreases are proposed for megrim and pollack in the Celtic and Irish seas, and for plaice in the Kattegat.
The Commission has said that the scientific advice for sea bass is also very alarming, and it states that it has proposals for managing sea bass in 2017 that would allow some fishing possibilities to the small-scale fishermen who depend on this stock, but take into account that ICES advises to cut the overall landings of sea bass.
‘Our goal is clear: we need to bring all stocks to healthy and sustainable levels as soon as possible so that our fishing industry can remain viable,’ commented Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella.
‘This is not up to the Commission alone: stakeholders are fundamental enablers in this process. We are proposing an ambitious programme for 2017 and the only way forward will be to work with fishermen, scientists and national authorities to develop real solutions that lead to fisheries that are both economically profitable and sustainable.’