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Fishing Opportunities for 2013 in the Atlantic, North Sea Proposed

Sustainability Politics

EU - The European Commission has proposed fishing opportunities for 2013 for certain fish stocks in the Atlantic and the North Sea.

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The proposal sets levels of total allowable catch (TAC) and fishing effort for stocks managed exclusively by the EU. In line with scientific advice, the Commission proposes to increase or maintain the TACs for 16 stocks (including certain stocks of cod, Norway lobster, and sole), and reduce them for 47 stocks.

The Commission's ultimate goal and one of the pillars of the on-going Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) reform is to have all stocks fished at sustainable levels, the so-called Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY), by 2015. Whenever possible, scientists advise on how to bring the stocks to MSY levels. This year, the so-called "MSY advice" could be issued for 20 stocks (compared to 12 last year). This is a marked improvement as far as the availability and quality of scientific data are concerned.

Maria Damanaki, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said: "We have to think long-term. European fishermen face a bleak future without sustainable, healthy stocks. Thanks to long-term management a number of stocks in the Atlantic waters are already fished at MSY levels. But at the same time 47 per cent of stocks are still overfished. These facts support the Commission's vision for the CFP reform."

Details of the proposals

According to scientific advice, Norway lobster in the West of Scotland, plaice in the Eastern Channel, cod and sole in the Celtic Sea, and sole in the Western Channel are at MSY levels and the Commission proposes to raise or maintain their TACs.

At the same time, cod stocks in the Irish Sea and the Kattegat continue to be in a poor state, and the poor data hampers the management of these stocks. Sole in the Irish Sea is at extremely low levels and the Commission proposes to stop the direct fisheries and minimise the by-catches. MSY advice for haddock in the Celtic Sea and sole in the Bay of Biscay demands considerable TACs cuts, so that the stocks can be brought to MSY levels. Cod and whiting in the West of Scotland, subject to extremely high rates of discarding, continue to be in a very poor state and well below safe levels.

For more than 30 stocks where data is limited, the Commission has followed the direction recommended by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), and proposed cutting the TAC by 20 per cent, in light of recent trends observed in these stocks, and on precautionary considerations.

For 13 stocks the scientific advice has been recently received, and needs to be further analysed before the proposal can be updated, later in the autumn.