Commission publishes 2012 TAC proposals

Scottish trawler. Credit: Iolaire Scottish trawler. Credit: Iolaire

The European Commission has published its first proposal for 2012 fishing opportunities for certain stocks in the Atlantic and the North Sea.

The proposal sets levels of total allowable catch (TAC) and fishing effort for the fish stocks managed by the EU exclusively and is based on scientific advice.

The Commission proposes to increase the TAC for nine stocks - certain stocks of cod, anglerfish, herring, haddock, hake, sole, megrim and Norway lobster - and reduce it for 53 stocks.

For cod in the West of Scotland, the Irish Sea and the Kattegat, the Commission has proposed that no fishing takes place in 2012, given the poor state of these stocks.

The proposed changes would amount to an overall reduction in TACs (by weight) of 11% compared to 2011.

Maria Damanaki, Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said: "Our proposal's cornerstones are long-term management of stocks and reliable scientific data to base our decisions on, in line with our proposed reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. This reform will deliver a fisheries policy fit for the future, based on viable fish stocks which will assure fishermen a decent income."

The Commission's ultimate aim is that all stocks are fished at sustainable levels, the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY), by 2015 – a commitment that the EU made to the international community, and which is also a key pillar of the proposed CFP reform.

However, the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation has voiced its concern over the proposed TACs. Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the SFF said: “We share with the European Commission the aims of sustainable food production from the sea. Unfortunately, this first set of proposals represents yet another huge missed opportunity by the European Commission. We had hoped that with the Scottish fleet’s record of discard reduction and stock conservation that a more intelligent approach to fisheries management would have been adopted by the EC this year. Unfortunately, we have another dose of the same old medicine.

“We are particularly disappointed that the increase in West of Scotland haddock, whilst welcome as far as it goes, does not come close to recognising the robust health of this important stock and will inevitably lead to discarding, a practice the Scottish fleet finds abhorrent. Similarly, whilst the Scottish fleet shares the EC’s aim for the recovery of the cod stock, the zero catch proposed for West coast cod is counter-productive in terms of discards and will do more harm than good. There are better, much more intelligent ways to meet the aims of sustainable fishing and we will be fighting to put those in place."

Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead has also criticised the European Commission for proposing a 'meagre' increase in West Coast haddock fishing quotas, which he says will lead to an increase in discards due to proposals being far lower than advised by scientists.

Tables of the proposed TACs can be found on the European Commission’s website.

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