The EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) aims to have all stocks fished at sustainable levels by 2020 at the latest, with sustainability expressed as achieving maximum sustainable yield (MSY). The Commission had proposed sustainable or precautionary catch levels for all stocks. In incrementally approaching MSY, the agreement brings the EU closer to long-term sustainable levels.
For the important pelagic stocks, herring sees an increase in some stocks but a sharp decrease of -24 per cent in Bothnian sea herring to 120.872 tonnes.
The plaice stock saw a modest increase of 18 per cent when scientific advice states that a much higher figure of 114 per cent would be in line with MSY management.
The two stocks of Atlantic salmon saw a roll-over of last year's quota whilst sprat saw a disappointing decrease of -5 per cent despite a good track record.
For the stocks of Western and Eastern cod, ministers adopted 20 per cent reductions in catches.
According to Europeche, western stock fishermen have been working under the strict management plan and a cut in the quota will be seen as a blow to their hard work and commitment.
In addition, Member States agreed on several measures to protect the Western stock to accelerate its recovery, including a six-week fishing closure during the spawning period between mid-February and end-March 2016.
EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella said: "Today's agreement is a step towards a sustainable fisheries policy in Europe: we are still moving towards MSY, but for some stocks less quickly than we had hoped. Some stocks go straight to MSY in 2016, for others, Member States have shown themselves less ambitious than the Commission. Still, we are on course to reach MSY in 2017. For Western cod, although the Council did not follow the Commission's proposal, today's agreement represents a substantial cut in catches that, with the additional measures agreed, will contribute to a more sustainable stock in the long run. The Commission remains invested in achieving healthy fish stocks because we are invested in the sustainable future of fishing communities and their livelihoods."