The proposal reflects both commitments made by Member States in 2006 to progressively reduce catch levels on certain stocks to zero over four years, and the recent scientific advice confirming the poor biological condition of many deep sea stocks.
In addition, the Commission has sought to bring Total Allowable Catches (TAC) more closely in line with actual fishing effort for those stocks where catches are small or close to zero. The Commission is committed to a precautionary approach in managing fragile deep sea stocks.
"Wherever we are uncertain, we need to ensure that fisheries are not expanded beyond current levels until we have better knowledge of real biological conditions."
Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Joe Borg
Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Joe Borg commented, "The Commission is determined that the EU should keep its commitments. We began reducing catch levels on some of the more vulnerable stocks in 2006, with a view to reaching zero catch in four years. This gradual phase out has given the industry time to adjust and refocus.
The precautionary approach is paramount in these fisheries since deep sea species live long, and reproduce only very late in their lives. Wherever we are uncertain, we need to ensure that fisheries are not expanded beyond current levels until we have better knowledge of real biological conditions. This includes reducing TACs where they are well above the official catch levels of recent years."
The Commission set out the principles it would use in proposing TACs for deep sea species in its annual policy statement published in May. For stocks such as Roundnose grenadier, and most red seabream and black scabbardfish stocks the proposal establishes a specific catch level representing a reduction of 15% in both 2009 and 2010. In the case of deep sea sharks and orange roughy the EU is committed to achieving zero catch levels over four years, and the final two years' reductions are proposed accordingly. In certain other cases, substantial one-off cuts in TACs are proposed, in order to bring catch limits more closely into line with real catch levels in the fishery in recent years.
The Commission's proposals are based on advice provided by ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea), which is then subject to review by the Commission's own Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee on Fisheries (STECF). Initial ideas are then discussed with the Regional Advisory Councils concerned by these fisheries, so that stakeholders can offer input to the process at an early stage. It is anticipated that Council will reach political agreement on deep sea catch limits at the meeting of fisheries ministers scheduled for late November.