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Fishing fleet belonging to the EU. (Photo: EC)

EC sets outs 2018 fishing opportunity principles

Monday, July 17, 2017, 22:00 (GMT + 9)

European Union Fisheries Ministers have started discussing the Commission Communication that sets out its principles for healthy and profitable fishing quotas for 2018.

For the first time, the consultative Communication adopted last Friday takes stock of the implementation of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy, while reaffirming that the Commission seeks to reach an agreement on 2018 fishing opportunities that will ensure the conservation and sustainable exploitation of fishery resources in the European Union (EU).

The Communication is now open for consultation and comments from stakeholders and citizens.

The EU Common Fisheries Policy aims at restoring and maintaining fish stocks at maximum sustainable yield levels (MSY) by 2020 so as to uphold a profitable fishing industry in EU coastal areas. Over the past few years, there has been significant progress in this respect and, in all regions operating within the framework of Total Allowable Catches (TACs).

At present, 61 per cent of assessed stocks in the Atlantic, North and Baltic Seas are exploited sustainably and fish stocks are being rebuilt. On average, stock biomass in the North-East Atlantic has increased by 35 per cent between 2003 and 2015. For some stocks, the increase is even more prominent; for instance, the biomass of Cod in the North Sea increased by almost 300 per cent between 2006 and 2016.

By contrast, moving towards sustainable exploitation in the Mediterranean and the Black Seas remains a challenge. This is largely due to the multispecies nature of fisheries, the fact that several fish stocks are shared with third countries and the low number of fish stocks assessed yearly by scientific bodies.

While a small number of stocks are being exploited at sustainable levels – for example, deep-sea pink shrimp and red mullet in the south and central Tyrrhenian Sea – the average biomass in the Mediterranean has declined by 20 per cent between 2003 and 2014.

Nonetheless, important political agreements reached since last year – such as the Medfish4ever Ministerial declaration – allow for optimism with regards to achieving environmental, economic and social sustainability in these sea basins.

The Communication highlights noteworthy improvement in the overall economic performance of the EU Fleet, which registered record net profits of EUR 777 million in 2014, a 50 per cent increase over the 2013 figure of EUR 500 million.

The economic forecasts for 2016 and 2017 remain upbeat. Average salaries and labour productivity have also increased. The overall improvement in the EU fleet's profitability coincides with an increase in the number of stocks fished at rates consistent with the objective of achieving Maximum Sustainable Yield and an associated increase in the biomass of these stocks.

The European executive points out that this confirms that pursuing the sustainable exploitation of stocks addresses not only environmental but also social and economic concerns. The balance between fishing capacity and fishing opportunities across the entire EU fleet has also improved as the EU fleet has decreased in terms of number of vessels, engine power and tonnage.

Progress has been also made regarding the scope of the landing obligation. All fisheries in the Baltic and Black Seas, as well as all fisheries for pelagic and other industrial species in all EU waters are now under the landing obligation. However, progress has been uneven. While the implementation of the landing obligation has progressed well in North Western waters demersal fisheries, more needs to be done in the North Sea, the South Western waters and the Mediterranean demersal fisheries.

There are important challenges ahead that require concerted effort by the industry, public administrations and the Commission.

In terms of governance, the EU Common Fisheries policy promotes decentralisation of fisheries management through regional multiannual plans and delegated acts shaped through a bottom-up approach and taking into account input from stakeholders.

After the proposal for a multiannual plan for demersal fish stocks in the North Sea, this year, the Commission has proposed another multiannual plan for small pelagics in the Adriatic. Both are currently discussed by the European Parliament and the Council.

In addition, the EC highlights that the regionalisation has also played an important role in the phasing-in of the landing obligation, where joint recommendations from Member States have led to 15 regional plans.


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