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Mixed outcome for EU fish stocks

Brussels, 15th December 2010. EU Fisheries Ministers have reached an agreement on 2011 TACs and quotas following the EC's proposals in several instances, but also penning lower cuts and even increases for some stocks, doing away with the scientific advice and putting several fragile fisheries in jeopardy.

Although the Council can be applauded for agreeing to a number of tough but necessary cuts put forward by the Commission in advance of the meeting (including cuts of over 25% agreed for certain stocks of cod, haddock, herring and also large cuts of 80-90% for blue whiting which is facing depletion), the Council also took some particularly damaging decisions Ė for instance, for herring and for both cod stocks in the Irish Sea and West of Scotland, in which ICES called for closures due to their risk of collapse, only 25% reductions were agreed.

Regrettably, the outcome of discussions at the Council has effectively undermined the Commissionís efforts to restore some important EU fish stocks to a healthy status, by deciding on TACs and quotas which will allow overfishing to continue for several stocks in 2011. Examples include Nephrops in the Irish Sea which shows serious signs of depletion in some parts, where the Commission had proposed some reductions of over 20%. However, Ministers agreed to a reduction of only 3% for the whole area. The TAC for flatfish such as plaice and common sole in the English Channel has been increased, despite the western part of the plaice stock being at serious risk.

This news does not bear well for complying with EU legal obligations to achieve Good Environmental Status by 2020, or for achieving the EUís political commitment to manage all fisheries at Maximum Sustainable Yield by 2015. Due to the conclusion of the Council meeting, which goes against this approach, this goal is likely to be unattainable for several stocks.

Sustainable fisheries not only make sense from an environmental point of view, but also from a socio-economic perspective, by reducing our current dependence on seafood imports as well as helping to shift an industry which still relies on public subsidies to one that is profitable. Decreasing fishing mortality in some stocks can mean larger long-term yields by letting the stock rebuild to a more productive level, which will ultimately benefit the marine environment and the fishermen who depend on a healthy fish resources for their livelihoods.

In advance of the meeting, Seas At Risk and the Fisheries Secretariat provided Ministers with recommendations based on available advice. Seas At Risk regrets that Ministers have generally failed to apply this key principle.

In 2011, the Commission will present a long awaited legislative proposal for the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy which will hopefully lead to a brighter future in European fisheries management. Seas At Risk would like to see major changes in the decision-making system, whereby the annual haggling by national Ministers, behind closed doors, over fishing opportunities is eliminated and gives way to a more transparent system, taking a responsible long-term approach towards European fisheries.

Council press release
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