Commission proposal on fishing opportunities moves towards precautionary approach

Oceana bemoans the large number of TACs proposed amidst knowledge gaps about the state of stocks and their rate of exploitation.

Press Release Date: September 28, 2011

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: | tel.: Marta Madina

Catch increases proposed for cod, anglerfish, haddock and Norway lobster are unjustified .

Yesterday the European Commission published its proposal for 2012 Fishing Opportunities for exclusive EU stocks in the Northeast Atlantic, which are not subject to international agreements. Oceana considers that the proposed catch limits pave the way to stock recovery, although for most of them due to the lack of information on the fishery, the proposal does not guarantee sustainable exploitation or maximum sustainable yield (MSY).

The proposed fishing opportunities were fixed differently, depending on the level of information available. For example, the numbers were based on management plans for those stocks that have them, on scientific advice, for those with sufficient and reliable data, and on the precautionary principle for those lacking information. The Commission has thus proposed to reduce the total allowable catch (TAC) for 56 stocks and increase it for the remaining 9, representing an 11% decrease in total catches compared to last year.

For the stocks for which TACs reductions are proposed reductions range from 10% to 44%. In most cases these reductions are proposed according precautionary considerations as there is no sound scientific knowledge about the stock status and/or its rate of exploitation, thus for example all TAC proposals to anglerfish, megrim, sprat or whiting are fixed in this way. Oceana endorses this approach to reduce catches for those stocks that do not have sufficient information since there is no evidence that their exploitation is sustainable.

“Oceana is deeply concerned about the widespread lack of information on the state of many stocks and the subsequent inability to guarantee their sustainable exploitation,” stated Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana Europe. “Member states must deliver the necessary information to allow the proper assessment of all stocks so as to guarantee that they are managed based on the best information available”.

The Commission rightly proposed a zero TAC, in accordance with scientific advice, for several stocks with biomass levels below safe biological limits, such as cod in the West of Scotland, the Irish Sea and Kattegat. Unfortunately for other stocks in a similar state, that received the same scientific recommendation for a zero TAC, like haddock in the Faeroes grounds or Norway lobster in the Iberian Peninsula no such proposal was made.

Nevertheless, Ocena applauds the Commission proposal regarding the stocks for which the MSY rate of fishing is available, like cod in the Western English Channel, Bristol Channel, Celtic Sea and Southwest of Ireland, haddock in the West of Scotland, Northern and Southern hake stocks, herring in the Celtic Sea and Southwest of Ireland, sole in North-Central Bay of Biscay, English Channel, Bristol Channel and Celtic Sea. The TACs proposed for these, either fulfil the requirement to reach MSY by 2015 or sets the stock on the right track. Oceana regrets that there are still few stocks for which this information is available and asks for an increase in the number of stocks assessed this way.

“Member States should make an effort to fix all possible TACs according to the MSY framework by 2015 and as such fulfil the commitment they subscribed to at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development”, stated Ricardo Aguilar, Research Director at Oceana in Europe, adding, “the application of MSY requirements will lead to an improvement of the state of the stocks, the profitability of the catching sector and the viability of the communities dependent of the resources.”

Among the stocks for which an increase in catch levels has been proposed Oceana considers the catch increases for anglerfish and cod in their south-western Divisions, haddock in the Faeroes Grounds, and Norway lobster in the Iberian Peninsula to be unjustified. The increases either do not comply with the scientific advice or were made without any knowledge about the true state of the stock, thereby calling into question the decisions. 

Come November, during the Fisheries Ministers Council where final TAC decisions will be adopted. Oceana calls on the Member States to apply the precautionary principle to those stocks for which there is no sound scientific advice, and to follow the MSY framework for the stocks for which this information is available.

Learn more: EU fisheries policy