Skip to main content
Oceans and fisheries

Fishing quotas

EU rules on catch limits and quotas.

Total allowable catches

Total allowable catches (TACs), or fishing opportunities, are catch limits (expressed in tonnes or numbers) that are set for most commercial fish stocks. TACs are

  • set annually for most fish stocks (every 2 years for deep-sea stocks)
  • based on scientific advice on the stock status from advisory bodies (ICES and STECF)
  • agreed with non-EU countries for stocks that are shared and jointly managed
  • shared between EU countries in the form of national quotas
  • follow the rules of the common fisheries policy to achieve sustainable fisheries, as set in the multi-annual plans

EU countries can exchange quotas but must use transparent and objective criteria when distributing national quotas among their fishers. They are responsible for ensuring that the quotas are not exceeded. When an EU country’s available quota for a species is exhausted, it must close the fishery.

Landing obligation

  • concerns species under TACs or species which have a minimum landing size (MLS)
  • requires all catches of regulated species to be landed and counted against the quota
  • undersized fish cannot be sold for human consumption
  • prohibited species (e.g. basking shark) must be returned to the sea – discards should be recorded in the logbook

Fisheries in non-EU countries’ waters do not fall under the landing obligation.

By-catch provisions in closed areas

By-catch in fisheries is the incidental capture of non-target species.

Where closed area affects a fishery falling under the landing obligation, all by-catch must be landed and counted against quotas.

The closure or restrictions will still apply, and targeted fishing of the species that is protected is still prohibited. The details of the closures remain unaltered.

Catches of prohibited species (e.g. basking shark) cannot be retained on board and must be returned to the sea.

Other documents

Reports on quota swaps

10 FEBRUARY 2021
EU fisheries in the North East Atlantic, North Sea and Baltic Sea in line with maximum sustainable yield (MSY)
10 FEBRUARY 2021
Fishing areas in the EU
26 MARCH 2021
Fishing areas in the Baltic Sea