The recovery of fish stocks in many EU waters has seen 'significant progress' over the past year, with a majority of stocks in the Atlantic, North Sea and Baltic on track for long-term sustainability, said Commissioner Karmenu Vella, responsible for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.
Mr Vella was opening the European Commission's annual seminar on the state of fish stocks and the economic performance of fishing fleets.
Latest biological advice shows that EU fisheries in the Atlantic, North Sea and Baltic are moving to levels that can maintain fish stocks in the long term ('maximum sustainable yield'). This is in line with the EU's fisheries policy, which aims to meet MSY for all fish stocks by 2020 at the latest.
Mr Vella stressed his aim to 'beat that deadline', by building on new multiannual plans and by continuing to improve knowledge and assessments: "We have until 2020 to get to MSY. Technically. But because MSY makes sense at so many levels – biologically, economically and for food supply – our aim should be to beat that deadline rather than meet it."
In contrast, scientific advice on the Mediterranean paints a far bleaker picture. Despite success stories like the recovery of bluefin tuna, overfishing of stocks is prevalent.
In light of this evidence, Mr Vella noted that multiannual plans in the Mediterranean are now a 'political priority'. Member States have also been asked to ensure that their national management plans are in line with the EU's objectives.
Scientific advice provides the basis for the EU's common fisheries policy. The Commission is currently examining the latest advice in order to prepare its proposals for fishing quotas for 2016.
Mr Vella will also stress the value of policy making based on sound advice at the general assembly of European fisheries association Europêche, where he will call for a 'concerted effort' to repeat the success stories of northern waters in the Mediterranean.