Oceana claims mismanagement is to blame for the failings of the fishing quota system

Politicians ignore eight out of ten scientific recommendations, catches are not effectively controlled and often exceed agreed quotas

Press Release Date: April 22, 2010

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: mmadina@oceana.org | tel.: Marta Madina

The international marine conservation organisation, Oceana, has sent the European Commission a study analyzing the failures in management of the total allowable catch (TAC) system. The EC will  table this Friday 16 October its proposal on 2010 TACs and quotas and Oceana advises that these factors be taken into consideration before blaming the TAC system for the failure in current fisheries policy. Various sectors are promoting the idea of substituting the TAC system with one based exclusively on fishing effort control (e.g. assigning each vessel a number of days to fish) when the reformed Common Fisheries Policy enters into force in 2013.

According to the Oceana analysis, 78% of the scientific recommendations for catch quotas have been ignored over the past 20 years, and catch recommendations have been greatly exceeded. The European Commission itself warns that, in 2009 alone, adopted TACs exceeded the sustainable volume of catches by 48%[1]. The lack of regulation and control is such that in some stocks real extraction of biomass is up to five times higher than the initially agreed TAC.[2]

With this analysis, Oceana denounces the lack of rigour in some initiatives focused on eliminating a key element in fisheries policy: the establishment of catch limits.

The TAC and quota system constitutes one of the fundamental tools of the EU fisheries policy. The European fisheries system is based on this instrument, along with control over the fishing effort and a series of technical measures that restrict the use of certain gear and set minimum sizes.

Responsibility, rigour and serious proposals are necessary to halt the increasing overexploitation of species in European waters described in the European Commission Green Paper. According to Xavier Pastor, Director of Oceana Europe: “It is disheartening to see how, instead of correcting errors, a system is being blamed for the critical state of fishing resources. If the causes of the failure of the quota system have been identified, then the next logical step would be to correct these failings, improve management and make it work, instead of looking the other way. The system must be strengthened so that it becomes a useful tool for sustainable fisheries”.

The information compiled in the report indicates that the failings of the TAC and quota system are due to deficiencies in management and implementation. The state of resources cannot improve if there is a lack of responsibility and control.  Ricardo Aguilar, Director of Research at Oceana Europe, adds: “Blaming the TAC system for the failings of fisheries management would make sense if all the instruments available for its application had been correctly applied.  Reality proves this has not happened. Cleaning the slate and starting over is not the solution. So many analyses have been made of the failures that now mechanisms must be established to correct them and prevent them from being repeated.”


Oceana analysis: Supporting the TAC / Quota System


[1] COM(2009) 224. Consultation on Fishing Opportunities for 2010. Brussels, 12 May 2009

[2] ICES Advice 2009, Book 6. Cod in Division IIIa East (Kattegat)