Oceana fishing opportunities recommendations for 2013. North East Atlantic Stocks

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November, 2012

In advance of the next EU Council decision on fishing opportunities, Oceana would like to provide a constructive opinion on how total allowable catches (TACs) and fishing efforts should be fixed for 2013. It is our hope that the EU Member States take into account the recommendations contained in this document proposes TAC levels that are in line with scientific advice, thereby balancing conservation and exploitation objectives.

Management plans
Oceana supports the Commission’s intention to move from singlestock/species plans towards multi-species management plans. This new type of multiannual plan (MAP) should integrate specific measures to minimize unwanted catches by using a best available technology approach (BAT), minimizing fishing impacts on marine habitats, and protecting essential fish habitats. In this manner they should also contribute to achieving the objective under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive to restore or maintain the good environmental status of marine waters.

While some of the MAPs already in place are working properly, several are poorly implemented and are not providing positive results in terms of stock recovery and effort reduction, in particular those for cod in Irish Sea, haddock in West of Scotland and nephrops and hake in South Bay of Biscay. Oceana therefore calls for a review of these plans.

The institutional dispute, which is the reason why several MAPs are in limbo (anchovy in the Bay of Biscay, Baltic salmon and western horse mackerel) must be urgently resolved so as to facilitate the increase in the number of stocks managed through MAPs.

Effort management
Fishing effort shows an overall slightly decreasing trend in European waters, with some variations depending on the area and fishery levels. In order to adapt fishing pressure to management objectives (MSY, multi-annual plans) and reduce impacts of fishing activities (discards, unwanted catches), it is necessary to continue the reduction of fishing effort.

While effort restrictions are a useful management tool as such, they should be implemented together with catch limits, in order improve resource management. The experience of the Mediterranean, where effort restrictions are applied alone, is not an example of good management of fishing resources. In addition, because of the difficulty to accurately measure fishing effort, current effort level estimates are not reliable. Therefore, Oceana recommends reviewing the effort indicators and management regimes that have been implemented so far in the EU.

Oceana’s principles for proposing TACs for 2013
The Commission has proposed the following principles to set fishing opportunities for 2013:
1. Apply harvest control rules consistent with what is contained in long-term management plans;
2. Implement TACs and other measures that have already been agreed with third countries;
3. Set TACs in accordance with scientific advice and with the ICES “MSY framework” to reach MSY by 2015;
4. Use qualitative analysis to set TACs for poor data stocks; and
5. Apply the precautionary approach where there is no scientific advice.

Oceana supports these guidelines as a commitment to reduce overfishing and rebuild fish stocks to their most productive levels. However, the Commission does not foresee any specific method to set TACs for the 14 stocks that are currently below biological limits. It is critical to restore those stocks within biological limits for 2013 as a priority, independently of the level of TAC that could be recommended by the relevant multi-annual plan or the MSY framework.

The Commission also suggests including two new species - sea bass and red mullet- into the TAC regulation. Oceana supports this addition and encourages Member States to incorporate more species, starting with those for which ICES has already provided scientific advice on stock status and catch limits.

Finally, Oceana considers that the allocation of fishing opportunities should prioritise the most efficient, selective and least destructive practices and that fishing techniques with low profitability, low selectivity and high impact on the marine environment (such as beam trawling), should receive fewer quotas.

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