EU ministers set 2017 catch limits

14 Dec 2016
The 2017 catch limits have been set

The 2017 catch limits have been set

EU ministers have reached an agreement on fishing opportunities for 2017 in the Atlantic, North Sea and Black Sea, following discussions at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 12 and 13 December.

This is the third agreement on quotas under the Slovak presidency will bring 44 stocks to maximum sustainable yield (MSY) levels, up from 36 in 2016, as per the requirement of the EU's reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) which requires that stocks be fished at a level corresponding to a MSY by 2020 at the latest.

Karmenu Vella, the EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said: "I am proud to say that our push for healthy fish stocks is starting to pay off: following years of disciplined fisheries policy, scientists this year advised increasing catch limits for several stocks in the Atlantic and North Sea. This is encouraging, and shows that sustainability really does get fishermen the best deal."

He added that the economic performance of the EU fleet has improved considerably, from a loss-making position in 2008 to generating increasingly higher net profits in the past three years - the faster the transition to MSY, the higher the long-term benefits.

Some successful examples under the MSY include Northern hake, where the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) has been increasing for a few years now, sole in the Bay of Biscay which is now stable and an increased TAC for sole in the North Sea.

In addition to this agreement, the landing obligation, which is already in place for certain demersal fisheries in the North Sea, North-Western and South-Western Atlantic waters, will be extended further in 2017 with "TAC top-ups" for certain fish stocks.

In the UK, Defra said that while challenges remain for some species, significant quota increases for fishermen around all parts of the UK have been secured including cod +16.5%, whiting +17%, anglerfish + 20% and saithe +53% in the North Sea, and haddock +25% and Nephrops, langoustines +8.6% in the Irish Sea.

Defra said that challenges remain to help reverse the long-term decline of some fish stocks, with the science showing a cut of 38% on cod was necessary in the South West (Celtic Sea) and new fishing restrictions on commercial net fisheries targeting sea bass.

Next year, sea bass catches by gill net fishermen will also be limited only to a by catch allowance of 250kg per month – a reduction around 80% on last year while hook and line commercial fishermen saw their allowance cut by around 23%.

Not everyone is happy with the 2017 agreement though with some environmental groups saying that Fisheries Ministers have been “making too slow progress” to end overfishing.

Seas at Risk said that the agreed catch limits for several stocks, including cod in the Celtic Sea and sole in the Bay of Biscay, are higher than the maximum sustainable yield levels recommended by scientists.

Its executive director Dr Monica Verbeek said that Fisheries Ministers are not doing the industry any favours by stalling on the requirements of the CFP.

“The longer this decision is delayed, the harder the cut will be at that point, and the longer it will take those stocks to recover to abundant levels that will allow increased quotas and enhanced profits,” she said.

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