The European Commission today (8 June) launched the process by which fishing quotas in European waters are set, proposing increases to some key fish stocks.
Member states will now evaluate the proposal and provide their feedback, with a view to setting the new quotas toward the end of the year. The document sets out suggested total allowable catches (TACs), quotas and allowable days at sea for fishing vessels.
Maria Damanaki, European commissioner for fisheries, said data shows that efforts to phase out over-fishing are starting to have an impact. In 2009, scientists judged all but five fish stocks in European seas to be over-fished; today, the list has lengthened to 20.
Because fish stocks for 11 species are recovering well, a larger catch for these species can be permitted in 2013. These include haddock, herring and cod. The Commission estimates that increasing the quota for these stocks will generate €135 million in extra income for the fishing industry.
But the conservation group Oceana said that the increase in quotas, which they say is 11% above what is recommended by scientists, is unjustified.
“What is the use of drafting new regulations or signing international conventions to ensure sustainable fisheries if there is no will to implement them?” asked Ricardo Aguilar, Oceana’s research director. “While there are no binding provisions in the regulations to implement scientific recommendations, it seems that politicians have no intention of ending the over-exploitation of fish resources on their own.”
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Oceana believes that, in the case of 33 stocks, the fishing opportunities allowed for 2013 are consistent with the maximum sustainable yield by 2015.
The Commission said that stocks covered by the long-term management plans, TACs and days-at-sea rules should be fixed according to the plans in force. But for other fish stocks not covered by the plans, the TACs should be based on scientific advice, with a goal to phase out over-fishing by 2015 – or earlier, wherever possible. Where no advice exists because of a lack of data, the precautionary principle should be applied.
Fisheries ministers will discuss the quotas over the coming months, with a view to reaching an agreement in December.