The last EU Fisheries Council meeting of the year has just concluded with an unsustainable Agreement on Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and quotas for 2009. As has became the usual practice, scientific advice has been ignored, with Fisheries Ministers ignoring the fact that science based management is not a negotiable option but an obligation under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) Framework Regulation (No. 2371/2002) which prescribes that the fisheries decision making process should be based on sound scientific advice and consistency with other community policies.
Ricardo Aguilar, Oceana-Europe’s Director of Research and Projects, has heavily criticized the Council results: ”Many of the science-based proposals made by the European Commission have been ignored by the Council. Short-term economic interests have once again won out and stocks will continue to be fished to depletion.”
Oceana’s initial reactions to the outcome of the Council can be found below:
Spiny dogfish (Lamna nasus)- a 50% reduction for 2009 and zero TAC for 2010 were agreed, along with a by-catch allowance for 2010. Oceana notes that the zero TAC should have been implemented immediately for 2009, and is solidly against the 2010 by-catch quota, which will allow fishing to continue despite calls by scientists to end all targeted fishing for this species. The Northeast Atlantic population is in danger of collapse, and countries such as the UK and France, which have received the greatest proportion of TAC allowances in past years, should end all fishing for this Critically Endangered species.
Porbeagle (Squalus acanthias)- a mere 25% reduction in TACs was agreed for 2009. Oceana rejects this decision by the Council, which once again turned a blind eye to the EU’s own scientific advisors who had recommend no targeted fishing and no landings for this Critically Endangered1 species. The agreement of such a TAC appeases countries like France, which is home to a targeted porbeagle fishery and was aimed to protect its national interests during this Council meeting. Oceana calls for the implementation of a zero TAC, without any misleading by-catch allowances, as part of the measures announced by the Council to be tabled for this fishery in 2009.
“A zero TAC, as recommended by scientists and proposed by the Commission, should mean no fishing at all, not a situation where catches are actually allowed via derogations and by-catch quotas in the small print of the regulation. Zero TACs are proposed because of severe depletion of populations. Ignoring the alarm bells from scientists and then creating an artificial zero TAC is a non-sustainable way to manage fisheries”, says Julie Cator, Policy Director of Oceana in Europe.
In the absence of an EU policy on eliminating discards, Oceana welcomes the announcement of measures to be implemented in 2009 for the North Sea, such as a ban on high grading and real time closures.
“These measures are not sufficient to tackle the severe problem of discards, particularly in light of a record increase of 30% in the cod quota. This is a compromise agreement that attempts to satisfy everyone but helps no one in the long term”, says Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe.
Oceana is disappointed that measures have not yet been announced for the rest of European fisheries and asks for strict adherence to the ones announced today. Approximately 1.2 million tonnes of marine catches are discarded every year in EU fisheries while “future” actions are continuously discussed.
Other fish stocks
Most fish stocks are still being legally and illegally overfished because of EU fishery Ministers’ decisions. Instead of catches being reduced for hake, cod, monkfish, sole, etc., TAC’s have been agreed well over scientific advice which could bring most of them to the brink of collapse.
At least for anchovy, the depleted fishery in the Gulf of Biscay has been kept closed as decision makers are waiting for a future assessment and new scientific advice that will be carried out in the spring. However, for the Gulf of Cádiz stock which is overfished, the TAC reductions proposed by the Commission have been rejected.
 In the Northeast Atlantic, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature