EU - The EU fisheries ministers have agreed on the 2017 and 2018 fishing limits (or TACs) for 19 deep-sea stocks. For the first time in six years, a unanimous agreement was reached on deep sea TACs and quotas for the next two years. One of these will be fished in accordance with Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) for the very first time next year.
The agreement reduces the TACs of most stocks, as is the case for most stocks of black scabbardfish, all stocks of roundnose grenadier, most red seabream and greater forkbeard. The decision is justified by scientific advice and by the status of these stocks. A few other TACs are kept stable from 2016, as is the case for the red seabream in the Azores. Thanks to this agreement, roundnose grenadier in Northern areas will be fished at MSY in 2017. This is the only stock for which MSY advice is available.
The Commission had proposed stronger cutbacks for some stocks, but the Council decided for more lenient reductions because of the socio-economic impact for some small-scale fleets and because some stocks are inevitably fished as bycatch in the demersal (whitefish) fishery. This is in line with the common fisheries policy, which stipulates that both biological and economic factors should be taken into account when setting fishing opportunities.
The agreement adds orange roughy to the list of prohibited species.
For Northern red seabream the fishing limits were reduced, and can only be used to cover bycatches. This is done in order to protect the stock, which is at a historically low level and near collapse.
A new element of the agreement is that it contains 3 small, scientific TACs for deep-sea sharks. These are caught as unavoidable bycatch in fisheries that use selective longlines targeting black scabbardfish.
As the sharks are dead when hauled on board, and since we still lack proper data on deep-sea sharks, the Commission proposed to allow landing the bycatches on a trial basis, which lets us improve the management framework for the black scabbard fishery on one hand and obtain data on deep-sea sharks on the other.
Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella is satisfied with the outcome and its implications for deep-sea stocks.
"For the first time we will have one deep-sea stock fished at MSY in 2017, which is good progress. For those stocks for which scientists are unable to give us MSY advice, our comprise recognises that we need to manage these sensitive stocks with caution, as we know little about them and as they recover very slowly. Combined with all this, the new element on sharks makes me feel confident that we have taken another important step for both our stocks and our fishermen," Mr Vella commented.
Read the Environmental Groups response to the quota decisions, here.
TheFishSite News Desk