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Long Term Fishery Plan For Bay Of Biscay

Sustainability Politics

EU - A long-term plan for the management of anchovy stock in the Bay of Biscay was approved by the European Parliament earlier this week.

New rules set the level of total allowable catches and distribute quotas between France and Spain. MEPs also approved a multi-annual plan for the exploitation of Atlantic horse mackerel, authorised changes in use of alien species in aquaculture and gave their consent to the EU-Solomon Islands fisheries agreement.

The closure of the Biscay anchovy fishing grounds in 2005 has had a serious socio-economic impact on the region and led to a substantial increase in the exploitation of other species in the area. MEPs therefore backed the regulation proposed by the Commission laying down new rules which, based on scientific advice by the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF), would establish a form of harvest control in order to ensure the stability of the stock.

TAC and quotas

Total allowable catches (TAC) will be calculated on the basis of current Spawning Biomass as estimated by the STECF in May-June each year, with quotas being distributed between France and Spain.

If the STECF is not able to give an assessment of the current biomass, the level of the TAC and quotas should either be reduced, if the STECF recommends this, or must correspond to the level applied in the previous fishing season. The highest possible level of reduction was set at 25 per cent.

Prior notification and monitoring

Masters of fishing vessels carrying more than one tonne of anchovy will be obliged to notify the authorities of their flag Member State at least one hour prior to the estimated time of their arrival in any port. Authorisation for discharge of the catch may be required by the Member State but should not be delayed beyond the time at which the fish quality or sale value is reduced, say MEPs.

The state and regional authorities of Member States shall designate ports into which any landing of anchovy of more than one tonne must take place but also validate the provided data. MEPs believe vigilance is needed about species other than anchovy being reported as anchovy and vice versa. The margin of tolerance between the estimation of quantities reported in the logbook and actual quantities of fish retained on board is to be set at 10 per cent, a five per cent increase compared to the Commission proposal.

Rapporteur Izaskun Bilbao Barandica (ALDE, ES) explained that, despite her reservations about the final text, she would support the report since not having a long-term plan would only harm the sector. The regulation was approved today at first reading by 612 votes to 33 with 13 abstentions and now goes to the Council.

Western Stock of Atlantic Horse Mackerel

MEPs also discussed a multi-annual plan for the western stock of Atlantic Horse Mackerel. The plan, which is based on scientific advice (STECF) and derives from the Plan of Implementation adopted at the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002, seeks to ensure that the exploitation of the Atlantic Horse Mackerel is guided towards maximum sustainable yield.

Parliament emphasises the economic importance of the western stock and insists on taking historical rights and needs of small-scale coastal fleets into account. The zonal distribution of TAC must also reflect the circumstances and purposes of industrial as well as small-scale fishing fleets, added MEPs.

The report, drafted by Pat the Cope Gallagher (ALDE, IE), was approved today by 618 votes to 15 with 19 abstentions at first reading and now goes to the Council.

Under the Lisbon Treaty, Parliament is no longer just consulted on multi-annual fishery plans but shares legislative power with the Council (co-decision). MEPs' approval is thus needed for the legislation to be adopted. In the debate, several MEPs stressed that co-decision was now part of the process and it was essential that the Council accept Parliament's new role.

Alien and locally absent species in aquaculture

Parliament also amended a regulation that governs aquaculture practices in relation to alien and locally absent species. New legislation delivers an updated definition of "closed aquaculture facility“ where, under certain conditions, the degree of risk related to the use of alien and locally absent species could be reduced to an acceptable level.

The aim is to make it easier to introduce alien or translocate locally absent species for use in such facilities by exempting them from the permit requirements, while ensuring adequate environmental protection. The report, drafted by João Ferreira (GUE/NGL, PT), was adopted by 638 votes to 16 with 11 abstentions as a first reading agreement with the Council.

EU-Solomon Islands fisheries agreement

Parliament also gave its consent to a new fisheries agreement between the EU and the Solomon Islands. The fisheries partnership provides EU funding of €400,000 per year to the Solomon Islands in exchange for allowing European vessels to fish in the country’s waters. The renewable agreement, covering a three-year period, allocates fishing opportunities of 4000 tonnes of tuna per year to four French and Spanish purse seiners. The rapporteur of the recommendation was Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (EPP, PT).