EU fisheries ministers have reached unanimous agreement on the 2017 and 2018 TACs for 19 deep-sea stocks. For the first time in six years, there is unanimous agreement on deep sea TACs and quotas for the coming two years. One of these will be fished in accordance with MSY for the very first time next year.
The agreement reduces the TACs of most stocks, as is the case for most stocks of black scabbard, all stocks of roundnose grenadier, most red seabream and greater forkbeard. The decision is justified on the basis of scientific advice and by the status of these stocks. A few other TACs are kept stable from 2016, as is the case for the red seabream in the Azores. Due to this agreement, roundnose grenadier in northern areas will be fished at MSY in 2017. This is the only stock for which MSY advice is available.
The Commission had proposed stronger cuts for some stocks, but the Council decided on a more lenient set of reductions because of the socio-economic impact for some small-scale fleets and because some stocks are inevitably fished as by-catch in whitefish fisheries. This is in line with the common fisheries policy, which stipulates that both biological and economic factors should be taken into account when setting fishing opportunities.
The agreement adds orange roughy to the list of prohibited species.
For northern red seabream fishing limits were reduced, limiting them to purely covering by-catches.
A new element of the agreement is that it contains three small scientific TACs for deep-sea sharks. These are caught as unavoidable by-catches in fisheries that use selective longlines targeting black scabbard. As the sharks are dead when hauled on board, and since there is still a lack of proper data on deep-sea sharks, the Commission proposed to allow landing the by-catches on a trial basis, which contributes to improving the management framework for the black scabbard fishery on one hand and obtaining data on deep-sea sharks on the other.
Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella is satisfied with today’s outcome and its implications for deep-sea stocks. ‘For the first time we will have one deep-sea stock fished at MSY in 2017, which is good progress,’ he said.
‘For those stocks for which scientists are unable to give us MSY advice, our comprise recognises that we need to manage these sensitive stocks with caution, as we know little about them and as they recover very slowly. Combined with all this, the new element on sharks makes me feel confident that we have taken another important for both our stocks and our fishermen.’