2019 is a crucial year for European fisheries: the full landing obligation enters into force as of 1st January while the agreed deadline to achieve sustainable fishing is right around the corner. The Commission is determined to bring commercial fish stocks to healthy levels by 2020, in line with the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) objective. This enables the fishing industry to catch a sustainable amount of fish that would not hinder the regeneration of the stocks. The landing obligation will put an end to the wasteful practice of throwing large quantities of unwanted fish back into the water. The Commission has put forward concrete solutions to advance on sustainable fishing and to ease the implementation of the landing obligation but we cannot do it without the support of the Member States.
The Commission's proposals set out how much EU fishermen may catch from the main commercial fish stocks next year in the Atlantic, North Sea and Black Sea. This amount is called fishing opportunities or Total Allowable Catches (TACs). The Commission bases its proposals on scientific advice provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) or the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF), with a view to achieve sustainable management of fish stocks while sustaining profitable livelihoods for fishermen.
For the Atlantic and the North Sea, the Commission proposed fishing opportunities for 89 stocks: for 62 stocks the fishing quota is either increased or remains the same, for 22 stocks it is reduced and for 5 stocks on which scientists have advised zero catch, the Commission proposes new bycatch quotas at low level to reduce the fishing pressure. The TACs proposed aim to keep the fish stocks healthy, while allowing the industry to profit from fishing sustainably. As the size of some key fish stocks is increasing – notably for Norway lobster in Skagerrak/Kattegat, Northern hake and Southern horse mackerel – so is the profitability of the fishing sector, with an estimated EUR 1.4 billion profit for 2018.
For the Black Sea, the Commission proposed catch limits for the two most important commercial species, sprat and turbot, shared between Bulgaria and Romania. The proposal is a roll-over from 2018 and is based on the scientific advice from the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF). It follows the multiannual management plan for turbot fisheries in the Black Sea, approved in 2017 by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM).
The Commission's proposals are both ambitious and fair, balancing everybody's interest. We have lived up to our part of responsibility. It is time for the Member States to do the same so that adequate catch limits can enter into force on 1 January 2019.