The EU welcomes NAFO's unprecedented precautionary measures for the conservation of international fish stocks
Thanks to the European Union’s determination to follow scientific advice strictly, and also thanks to the close cooperation with partner countries, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO) adopted unprecedented precautionary measures for the conservation and management of fish stocks under its purview at its Annual Meeting held in Halifax, Canada, on 20-24 September 2010.
Following extensive work of fishery scientists and managers over the past year, last week NAFO made a ground-breaking decision regarding one of its most important stocks, Greenland halibut: it adopted a new management procedure which provides for the annual adjustment of the TAC according to predefined rules for the four coming years. This hails a new, science-based approach to the management of this stock and places NAFO at the forefront of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations. On this basis, total allowable catches (TAC) have been set for 2011 at 17,185 tonnes, compared to 16,000 tonnes in 2010.
NAFO has made a difficult but commendable decision to close the fishery for shrimp in the Flemish Cap, following the scientific advice indicating a bad shape of the stock. Likewise, the TAC for Grand Banks shrimp has undergone a massive reduction, from 30,000 tonnes in 2010 to 19,200 tonnes in 2011 and 17,000 tonnes in 2012.
The increasingly good condition of two fish stocks for which the fishery was reopened at the beginning of 2010, Flemish Cap cod and Grand Banks redfish, shows that the painful management decisions taken in the past have been successful. The EU remained firm on following scientific advice and strongly supported the adoption of precautionary catch limitations for the fishery on these stocks in 2011. As a result, from 2010 to 2011, the TAC has been increased from to 5,500 to 10,000 tonnes for cod and from 3,500 to 6,000 tonnes for redfish.
NAFO has also decided to set up a working group of fishery scientists and managers to develop re-building strategies for two stocks currently under moratorium, Grand Banks cod and American plaice, in order to accelerate their recovery.
In line with its Action Plan to foster the protection of elasmobranchs (sharks, rays and skates), the EU has tabled a proposal to further extend the conservation of thorny skates and regrets that it could not be adopted.
The EU has also ensured that NAFO remained fully committed to the application of an ecosystem approach to fisheries management and agreed to further refine its provisions to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems from the significant adverse impacts of bottom fisheries. This has included the extended closure of six seamounts in international waters.
Finally, NAFO has made a decision to launch a performance review of the Organisation as called by the United Nations General Assembly. A review panel consisting of external experts and of certain NAFO Parties will assess the performance of NAFO, notably to identify any shortcoming to be addressed by NAFO Parties. As a matter of transparency, the EU regrets that its proposal to include an observer from an environmental NGO was not followed. NAFO is the seventh Regional Fisheries Management Organisation to undertake such an exercise.
The European Commission believes that the measures adopted by NAFO at this Annual Meeting will yield long term environmental and socio-economic benefits ensuring good condition of the fish stocks and the ecosystem and an economic viability for European fishermen.
The Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO) was established in 1979, with the objective of contributing to the optimum utilisation, rational management and conservation of the fishery resources of the Convention Area. Its current Contracting Parties are Canada, Cuba, Denmark (in respect of the Faroe Islands and Greenland), the European Union, France (in respect of St. Pierre et Miquelon), Iceland, Japan, Republic of Korea, Norway, Russia, Ukraine and the United States of America.
 Following NEAFC, CCSBT, CCAMLR, ICCAT, IOTC and SEAFO