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Commission proposes fishing opportunities in the Atlantic and North Sea for 2016

The European Commission proposes fish quotas (Total Allowable Catches) for 2016 for the Atlantic and the North Sea.

The Commission proposes to maintain or increase the fish quotas for 35 stocks, and reduce catches for 28 stocks on the basis of the scientific advice received.

The Commission is proposing an increase in fishing opportunities to help fishermen in the transition to the new obligation to land all catches. This is the first time the Commission proposes so-called quota “top ups” for all the fisheries under the landing obligation as of 2016. This extra quota aims to compensate fishermen for the extra fish they will have to land. On the basis of scientific advice to be received by mid-November the Commission will, later in the month, propose the catch increase including all the quantities that need to be landed.

The Commission’s goal, and one of the pillars of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), is to have all stocks fished at sustainable levels, respecting the Maximum Sustainable Yield. Fishing at Maximum Sustainable Yield levels allows the fishing industry to take the highest amount of fish from the sea while keeping fish stocks healthy. The Commission proposes bringing the stocks to Maximum Sustainable Yield levels on the basis of scientific advice received from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). This year, advice was given for 34 stocks.

Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said: “My objective is clear and ambitious: I want us to bring all stocks to healthy and sustainable levels as soon as possible. I am happy that for a number of fish stocks we can propose quota increases and achieve Maximum Sustainable Yield in 2016. The efforts of our fishermen paid off and we are here to support them also in making the transition to landing all fish caught. For other fish stocks however cuts need to be made so that we can protect the future of those stocks.

This proposal will be presented by Commissioner Vella and submitted to discussion to the Ministers of the Member States at the December Fisheries Council to be applied as from 1 January 2016.

Today’s proposal is the annual proposal for the amount of fish which can be caught by European Union fishermen from the main commercial fish stocks next year. It 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. The proposal therefore only includes figures for about half of the TACs at this stage. It will be completed once negotiations with third countries and within RFMOs have taken place.

Details of the proposal

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.

At the same time, some stocks have not greatly improved since last year. Cod stocks in the Irish Sea and the Celtic Sea continue to be in a bad state. Sole stocks in areas such as the Irish Sea, Eastern Channel or Bay of Biscay are very vulnerable. Advice for haddock and cod in the Celtic Sea demands considerable TAC cuts to bring them to MSY levels. Cod in the West of Scotland, which sees extremely high rates of discarding, is still at a risk of collapse. Advice for the northern stock of sea bass also calls for significant cuts in catch levels. The Commission has included proposals for managing sea bass in 2016 in its proposal.

For many of these stocks, even more selective fishing techniques are urgently needed, so that young fish are not caught before they can reproduce and replenish the fish stocks. This is particularly urgent for fisheries in the Celtic Sea and the Western waters, where a big effort is needed by Member States and the fishing industry to implement the selectivity measures advised by scientists. This will also help the fishing sector to comply with the obligation to land all catches, which will apply to more and more stocks in the coming years.

For stocks where data are not good enough to properly estimate their size, the Commission proposal goes in the direction of advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), with cuts or increases of a maximum of 20%. Following a Council decision last year on precautionary reductions, TAC proposals are maintained at 2015 levels for 26 of these stocks.

For a limited number of EU stocks, the Commission has received the scientific advice only recently. The advice will be further analysed before the Commission proposes a TAC figure later in the autumn.

For fish stocks shared with third countries (Norway, Faroe Islands, Greenland, Iceland, Russia), the European Commission, on behalf of the EU, negotiates towards the end of each year the quantities of fish to be caught the following year.

For the stocks in international waters and for highly migratory species, such as tuna, the European Commission, representing the EU, negotiates fish quotas in the framework of RFMOs. These must subsequently be transposed into EU law.

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