Anchovy fisheries in the Bay of Biscay to be closed until the end of the year

The European Commission today (20 July) adopted a Regulation closing the anchovy fishery in the Bay of Biscay until the end of the year.

This closure follows the decision taken by the December 2005 Fisheries Council requiring the Commission to close the fisheries if scientific advice estimated the stock concerned to be below 28,000 tonnes.

As announced on 3 July, the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee on Fisheries (STECF) warned of the severe risk of collapse of the anchovy stock.

In 2004, acting on advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), the Commission proposed a substantial reduction of the total allowable catch (5,000 tonnes, as compared to the then level of 33,000 tonnes).

The 2004 December Council, however, set the TAC at 30,000 tonnes. In spring 2005, the situation had deteriorated to such an extent that ICES advised closure of the anchovy fishery.

The fishery was temporarily closed on 1 July, a closure that was subsequently extended until the end of the year.

The Commission then proposed a zero TAC for 2006, and an in-season management system to allow for adjustment when the anchovy stock had recovered.

The December 2005 Council decided to set the TAC at 5,000 tonnes and agreed strict biological criteria to deal with the scientific advice in spring. Council decided that if the stocks could support increased fishing effort, the TAC could be increased. If, on the other hand, the stock of adult anchovy fell below 28,000 tonnes during spawning time, the Commission should close the fishery.

In spring 2006, STECF estimated the stock of adult anchovy to be at 18,640 tonnes during spawning time, which is well below safe biological levels and warrants an immediate closure of the fishery until the end of the year as had been decided by Council.

Last Monday, Commissioner Borg told the July Council that he had great sympathy for the fishermen whose livelihoods were being disrupted by this closure. He also said that the Commission was looking at the possibilities of financial support for the fishermen concerned. However, he said, that the need to close the fishery in order to protect the anchovy stock was a urgent one.

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