Scientific advice by the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF), coordinated by the JRC, has contributed to define 2016 fishing opportunities which were agreed upon by EU ministers last week. STECF advice and calculation method for the so-called "Quota top-ups" for fisheries under the landing obligation fed into the Commission's proposals which were the basis for negotiations on fishing catch limits.
According to the landing obligation, which is also commonly known as the “discard ban”, from 1 January 2015 onwards fishers in certain parts of the EU must land all the fish they catch, and by 2019 all fishers will have the same obligation.
This major legal provision under the remit of the Common Fisheries Policy is an important step towards more sustainable fisheries, as it abolishes in principle the widespread practice of throwing caught fish, either of no market value or for which the vessel lacks quota, back into the sea.
In October 2015 the European Commission decided to raise quotas for those fisheries becoming subject to the landings obligation in 2016 to increase fishing opportunities by introducing so-called “Quota Top-Ups”, thereby acknowledging the effort of the industry to land all catches.
However, the implementation of the top-ups is not straightforward. Not all fisheries in a Member State fleet are included in 2016, and there are also different possible ways to assign the top-ups.
In 2016 demersal fisheries (those catching fish that live near or on the sea floor; well-known species include cod, hake, plaice and sole) are included. In preparation of the Commission's proposal on Total Allowable Catches (TAC), the Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries asked STECF to verify the proportions of the key demersal species caught by these fleets and their discard rates for each of the key species.
STECF issued its advice during their 50th plenary meeting (Brussels, 9-13 November 2015), on the basis of data available in the Fisheries Dependent Information (FDI) data base held at the JRC, the best available data source for this analysis. In addition to the specific Commission's requests, STECF also suggested a methodology for the calculation of the quota top-ups and included worked examples.
Each year the EU decides the quantity of commercial fish species that each EU Member State can catch (Total Allowable Catch – TAC). One of the pillars of the EU's reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is to have all stocks fished at sustainable levels by 2020 at the latest. Fishing at Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) levels allows the fishing industry to take the highest amount of fish from the sea while keeping fish stocks healthy.
JRC's scientific research in fisheries and aquaculture contributes to sustainable fisheries management, supporting the European Commission scientifically in the implementation of the CFP.
The JRC coordinates the scientific advice process of the Commission's own advisory body, the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF), established by the Council Regulation EC 2371/2002, in order to support the conservation and management of living aquatic resources, including biological, economic, environmental, social and technical considerations.
The JRC also collects, maintains and disseminates scientific fisheries data from EU member states, which, after being assessed by teams of independent STECF experts, are used to inform the CFP decision making process.