On 24 October, the EU tabled plans to significantly reduce total allowable catches (TACs) in the North-East Atlantic and the North Sea for fish stocks such as cod, which are at risk of collapse. The restrictions would start in 2020, but would not mark the end of over-fishing in Europe, EURACTIV’s partner le Journal de l’Environnement reports.
Indeed, the EU executive announced that quotas for 32 of the 72 stocks managed by the EU in the Atlantic and the North Sea would either see an increase or stay at the same level compared to last year.
The TAC for the fragile cod stock will be reduced by 88% compared to 2019 in Western Ireland, the Eastern Channel and the Celtic Sea and by 68% in the Irish Sea.
At the last Agrifish Council on 14 October, catch limits for the Western Baltic cod were already cut by 60% while a ban on fishing Eastern baltic cod was confirmed.
The Commission also proposed measures to safeguard cod and merling in the Celtic Sea, including the implementation of temporary closures of fisheries, as well as checks to prevent fish discards at sea.
With haddock stocks doing well, Brussels suggested limiting the TAC increase to 30% in the Celtic Sea to reduce by-catches of cod. In the Irish Sea, however, Haddock TAC fell by 16%.
59 stocks at the maximum sustainable yield
In practical terms, only 59 of the stocks will see the maximum sustainable yield (MSY), which determines how much fish of a certain type can be captured without threatening fish populations, respected next year.
This is only six more than in 2019, even though the 2013 reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) sought to ensure that all stocks achieved the MSY by 2020.
This decision has provoked reactions from environmental protection associations, including ClientEarth.
“In the past, fisheries ministers have failed to stop over-exploitation of the oceans and restore fish stocks to healthy and sustainable levels. France, Spain and Ireland have even called for ever higher quotas every year. The time has come for them to keep their commitments,” the NGO wrote in a statement.
The ball is now in the member states’ court, with the European Council expected to finalise its position on the matter on 16 and 17 December during the next Agrifish Council.
[Edited by Gerardo Fortuna]