North Sea

19th December 2011 in Europe / Common Fisheries Policy, North Sea, TACs and Quotas

The main North Sea joint stock TACs were agreed with Norway in late November and with the exception of saithe.

The main North Sea joint stock TACs were agreed with Norway in late November and with the exception of saithe, reflect the positive ICES advice for 2001, which in turn reflects the general picture of stocks rebuilding and heading towards or already in the region of maximum sustainable yield. Saithe is an object lesson in the pitfalls of fisheries science and management because it had been regarded as an exemplar species and had achieved low fishing mortality and high levels of biomass in the five preceding years.

The North Sea plaice stock as rebuilt rapidly, doubtless assisted by the substantial decommissioning scheme for beam trawlers undertaken by the Netherlands – a feature that seems to have escaped the notice of the recent European Court of Auditors report on fleet capacity.

The divergent direction of TACs and effort allocations is the most salient and disturbing part of the December Council outcomes for the North Sea and has to raise questions about the inclusion of effort control in future management plans. The provisions of the EU Cod Management Plan and also the EU Flatfish Management Plan have resulted in these perverse outcomes that the fishing industry will have to deal with in 2012.

The wholly Commission’s wholly unnecessary and unwarranted proposal to reduce TACs for data poor stocks was rejected by the Council and will be recorded as one of the more cack-handed approaches to emerge from Brussels. In the event most of the proposed reductions for the North Sea were transformed during the Council negotiations to rollovers – avoiding unnecessary discards and loss of income.