The collapse in anchovy population due to excessive catches already forced closures from 2005 to 2009.
Oceana warns that the European Union (EU) has once again ignored scientific advice when establishing the Total Allowable Catches (TAC) for anchovy in the Bay of Biscay. The 15,600 tonnes approved today by the European Council of Ministers, according to media reports, will cause a biomass drop under the precautionary limit in 2011, according to the advice published at the beginning of July by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). The next fishing seasons would be at risk, with fisheries being stopped completely, as occurred from 2005 to 2009 due to excessive TACs in previous years.
Oceana demands the management be based on scientific data, as had been announced both by the European Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, Maria Damanaki, and the Spanish Minister of the Environment and the Rural and Marine Affairs, Elena Espinosa. However, this TAC is outside the safe limits established by scientists. ICES, one of the main scientific institutions for fish stock assessments in the North-East Atlantic, recommended a TAC of 6,000 tonnes in the Bay of Biscay based on a precautionary approach to fisheries management.
“In spite of the insistency by Damanaki and Espinosa that fisheries be managed in accordance with scientific recommendations, there was no hesitation in approving a TAC clearly above any scientific advice, and even higher than the level put forward by the sector itself”, indicated Ricardo Aguilar, Research Director of Oceana Europa. “This first opportunity, which has proven to be a failure in applying sustainable fisheries management, is a clear warning sign and means that bad fisheries management will continue”.
The biomass estimates, published by ICES, establish a range from 34,000 to 78,000 tonnes in the Bay of Biscay. Anchovy is a species very vulnerable to environmental changes, and just one year of low recruitment combined with bad management would place the stock at the dangerously low biomass levels seen in the past. With the fishery being closed for five years and a TAC of merely 7,000 tonnes in 2009, the establishment of the 2010 TAC, lacks any scientific basis.
The EU ignores 78% of the scientific recommendations when adopting TACs. Oceana considers this practice compromises not only the good state of the fishing resources, but also the long-term sustainability of the sector itself. In fact, the European Commission admits that in Community waters 88% of the evaluated stocks are already overexploited.
 Oceana, 2008. Briefing prepared for the 9 September 2008 EP Hearing “A stronger dialogue between scientists and fishermen for a renovated CFP. Time for science – based fisheries management”.