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EC: A New Way to Protect Anchovy Stocks

Sustainability Politics

EU - The European Commission today adopted a proposal for a long-term plan to manage the anchovy stock in the Bay of Biscay.

The aim of the plan is to maintain the stock at a level that allows it to be exploited sustainably, while at the same time delivering stability and profitability for the fishing sector.

Since anchovy is a short-lived species, the plan is based on a simple rule for setting annual fishing possibilities on the basis of scientific advice received just before the fishing season should open on 1 July each year. This approach has been promoted by stakeholders, and should considerably facilitate the management of the fishery and reduce uncertainty for fishermen.

European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Joe Borg commented: "The anchovy fishery in the Bay of Biscay has been closed since 2005. This is bad news both for anchovy stocks and the fishermen whose livelihoods depend on them. I am extremely optimistic that this new plan, with its innovative approach, can succeed in restoring the fishery to good health – not least because the momentum behind it has come in large measure from both scientists and the sector itself."

The plan is based on the establishment of an appropriate harvest control rule – a mathematical formula used to determine the fishing possibilities each season on the basis of scientific data. As the anchovy fishing season in the Bay of Biscay runs from 1 July each year until the following 30 June, the stakeholders and Member States concerned would like the anchovy management period to be the same. This means setting the total allowable catch (TAC) and relevant quotas in late June, just after the scientific advice on the state of the stock becomes available, so that Member States can plan their fishing activities properly.

The short time span between the release of the scientific advice and the start of the fishing season requires a streamlined TAC- and quota-setting arrangement. That is why the plan includes the harvest control rule, which the sector has been advocating. With this rule in place, the Commission will be empowered to establish the TAC automatically on the basis of a formula agreeable to all concerned. In this way, the plan diverges from the general rule that TACs are set by fisheries ministers at their annual December Council meeting.

The long-term management plan for anchovy further extends one of the central aims of the 2002 CFP reform, namely moving away from short-term approaches where fishing opportunities are renegotiated annually, towards a multi-annual approach which provides both greater stability for the industry and clear objectives in terms of sustainable fishing levels.