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EC proposes fishing opportunities in the Atlantic and North Sea for 2018

Ahead of the December Fisheries Council, where Member States will agree next year's fishing quotas in the Atlantic and North Sea, the Commission is presenting its proposal for sustainable fishing by the industry.

Yesterday the Commission presents its proposal for fishing opportunities in the Atlantic and the North Sea for 2018. The Commission proposes quotas for 78 stocks: for 53 stocks the fishing quota is either increased or remains the same and for 25 stocks is reduced. The fishing opportunities, or Total Allowable Catches (TACs), are quotas set for most commercial fish stocks that keep the stocks healthy, while allowing the fishing industry to profit from fishing the highest amount of fish. As the size of some key fish stocks is increasing – notably for sole in the North Sea, northern hake and southern horse mackerel – so is the profitability of the fishing sector, with an estimated EUR 1.5 billion profit for 2017.

Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said: "Our fleet is becoming more profitable and that is because some of the EU's key fish stocks are healthier and more abundant. The perseverance of the fishermen and the responsible fisheries management decisions stand to prove that sustainability and profitability can go hand in hand. That being said now is not the time for complacency. We must continue our joint efforts to manage our seas and oceans in a way that works for the environment, for the economy and for future generations."

The EU has made important progress over recent years, with 44 stocks now fished at Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) levels, up from only 5 in 2009. The objective under the Common Fisheries Policy is to have all stocks fished at sustainable levels by 2020. The process towards this goal takes into account socioeconomic and environmental factors. As the legally binding deadline for the 2020 target draws closer, the margin for setting quotas that are not sustainable is narrowing. The Commission is working with Member States to support the fishermen in this transition.

Yesterday's proposal will be submitted for discussion and decision by the Member States at the December Fisheries Council (11-12 December in Brussels), to be applied as from 1 January 2018.

Details of the proposal

The Commission proposes fishing quotas on the basis of independent scientific advice received from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES).

The proposal covers stocks managed by the EU alone and stocks managed in cooperation with third countries, such as Norway, or through Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs). International negotiations for many of the stocks concerned are still ongoing and some further stocks are awaiting scientific advice. For these, the figures will be included at a later stage.

Later this autumn, the Commission will propose additional quotas, the so-called 'quota top-ups', for fisheries that in 2018 fall under the landing obligation, which requires that all catches of regulated commercial species on-board are landed and counted against quota. The allowed quota is thereby increased to facilitate the transition to the new system of 'no discards'. The exact top-ups per fishery will be determined on the basis of scientific advice. The proposal does not take into account the forthcoming TAC top-ups.

  • Proposed increases: For 19 stocks, such as Norway lobster in the North Sea, 4 sole stocks and 3 plaice stocks in North Western waters, and megrims in South Western waters, the Commission proposes to increase the Total Allowable Catch. The increases also include the socioeconomically important sole stock in the Bay of Biscay that has followed a management plan led by the industry, and can now be increased. The same applies to sole in the Eastern Channel and the Western Atlantic stock of horse mackerel which can also be increased.
  • Stocks that can be fished as before: 14 stocks are kept at the same level as last year.
  • Proposed decreases: Decreases are proposed for 25 stocks. For 15 of these, the decrease proposed is less than 20%. For plaice in the Celtic sea and whiting in West of Scotland and in the Irish Sea a zero TAC is proposed.
  • A proposal to prohibit fishing of eels is introduced for all Union waters, following scientific advice emphasising the importance of ceasing all fisheries that target spawners, until there is clear evidence of improvement of the state of the stock.
  • Stocks for which scientific data are lacking: For cases where data are not sufficient to properly estimate the stock's size, the Commission proposal follows scientific advice from ICES, i.e. cuts or increases of a maximum of 20%.

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