On 16 and 17 December, the Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius will discuss with EU ministers the Commission’s proposal for the 2020 fishing opportunities for the Atlantic and North Sea at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels. The Council is also expected to adopt the Commission’s proposal on the 2020 fishing opportunities for the Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea – the first proposal ever to cover the Mediterranean and a historic step towards the sustainability of fish stocks in that region.
2020 is a crucial year for European fisheries. It is the year when all scientifically-assessed stocks should be fished in line with the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) principle. Concretely, this means we should only catch the right amount of fish that would not hinder the regeneration of the stocks. Conservation leads to economic development. As the size of some key fish stocks has been increasing – for instance, Haddock in the Celtic Sea and Sole in the Bristol Channel – so has the profitability of the fishing sector, with an estimated €1.3 billion net profit for 2019.
With this in mind, the Commission has proposed Total Allowable Catches (TACs) to keep the fish stocks healthy, while allowing the industry to profit from fishing sustainably. We have put forward concrete solutions and now we need the support of the Member States to make this happen.
For the Atlantic and the North Sea stocks in the EU, 91% of the TACs proposed are in line with MSY, while for the rest the Commission is proposing even stricter conservation measures to be taken up urgently by Member States.
This is the case for herring in the Celtic Sea, where the Commission is proposing to set a TAC of 869 tonnes, for scientific purposes only, 81% less than in 2019.
The same goes for the stocks of cod in the West of Scotland, cod in the Celtic Sea, and whiting in the Irish Sea, where the scientists of ICES have given a zero or very low catch advice, and the Commission proposes to stop targeting these stocks. Instead, fishermen should be allowed to retain a limited amount of unavoidable bycatches, subject to improved selectivity and monitoring measures where relevant.
For Northern seabass, the Commission wants to capitalize on the efforts undertaken since the emergency measures adopted in 2015 and the sustainable management, which has led to fishing being in line with MSY levels in 2018. The Commission proposes to fish Northern seabass in the lower range of MSY (1634 tonnes) and maintain the closure period during spawning season.
For the first time ever, this year, the Commission has proposed fishing opportunities covering both the Mediterranean and the Black Seas. The first ever proposal for the Mediterranean implements the EU multiannual management plan for demersal stocks in the western Mediterranean, adopted in June this year. To that end, the proposal introduced a reduction of 10% of fishing effort for demersal species. The proposal also introduces measures adopted by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM), in particular a fishing effort reduction for demersal stocks and catch limits for small pelagic species in the Adriatic Sea, and a closure period for eel in the Mediterranean Sea . For the Black Sea, the Commission proposed quotas for the two most important commercial species, sprat (11,475 tonnes) and turbot (150 tonnes), shared between Bulgaria and Romania. The proposal for turbot follows the GFCM multiannual management plan, as amended in 2019. The fishing opportunities for the Mediterranean and Black Seas are a historic step towards the sustainability of fish stocks in those regions.
The Commission's proposals are both ambitious and fair, balancing environmental, economic and social elements. We have lived up to our part of responsibility. It is time for the Member States to do the same so that adequate catch limits can enter into force on 1 January 2020.
- Publication date
- 13 December 2019
- Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries