Sustainable fisheries: Commission takes stock of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy and launches consultation on the fishing opportunities for 2021

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(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.


The Commission has published its yearly Communication on the progress of management of fish stocks in the EU, which is based on data from 2018. This year’s edition, “Towards more sustainable fishing in the EU: state of play and orientations for 2021”, reaffirms the Commission’s strong commitment to promoting fisheries that are environmentally sustainable and economically viable, and shows the EU’s progress in achieving that goal. Member States, Advisory Councils, the fishing industry, non-governmental organisations, and interested citizens are invited to take part in a public consultation and express their views on the fishing opportunities for 2021.The Commission will be reaching out and actively listening to them over the next weeks.

Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius, responsible for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, said: “The first months of this year have been extremely challenging for the fisheries sector, but we have supported them across the EU. Sustainable fisheries, delivered through the Common Fisheries Policy, are necessary for increasing resilience and delivering the European Green Deal, in particular the recent Farm-to-Fork and EU Biodiversity Strategies. Fisheries management in the EU has brought us good news –we now have 50% more fish in the North East Atlantic seas than in 2003. Figures also show that the large fleet segments have become very profitable over the last years and bring increases in salaries. Challenges, however, remain, for example, we need to intensify our efforts to eliminate discards. I am counting on everyone to make an effort – Members States, industry and stakeholders. We must deliver what we have set out to achieve.”

The 2020 Communication shows that fishing in the Northeast Atlantic has steadily become more sustainable resulting in a more abundant stock. The economic performance of the EU fleet continued to be very good, with a net profit of around €1.4 billion and an average net profit margin of 18% in 2018. Fishers’ salaries also continued to increase.

Despite significant improvements, challenges remain. While similar economic performance is expected to be confirmed for 2019, the projections for 2020 remain highly uncertain due to the impact of the coronavirus crisis. For the Mediterranean and Black Seas, vigorous conservation efforts must continue, and in the Atlantic sea basins, some stocks continue to be overfished or remain outside safe biological limits. In the second year of its full application, the implementation of the landing obligation remains a concern. Member States need to step up the enforcement and control of compliance with the landing obligation, in particular by using control tools, such as remote electronic monitoring systems. The Commission will continue to work with the European Parliament and Council to reach an agreement on the revised fisheries control system, which will facilitate the use of these tools.

Background

Every year, the Commission publishes a Communication outlining progress on the situation of fish stocks and launching a wide public consultation on the fixing of annual fishing opportunities for the following year. This Communication assesses the state of play of the implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy and sets out the rationale for the proposal on fishing opportunities for the following year. The Commission invites input from Member States, Advisory Councils – which include the fishing industry and NGOs – and interested citizens and organisations via an online public consultation.

In the autumn, the Commission will table its proposals for Fishing Opportunities Regulations for 2021 in the Atlantic, the North and Baltic Seas, deep sea stocks, as well as the Mediterranean and Black Seas. From this year, fish stocks are to be managed in line with the maximum sustainable yield target, namelythe maximum amount of fish that fishers can take out of the sea without compromising the regeneration and future productivity of the stock. The main objective of the Commission’s proposals for fishing opportunities in 2021 will be to maintain or reach a level of fishing that allows for maximized, but sustainable harvesting from the stocks. The proposals take into account the multi-annual plans and are based on independent scientific advice provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and other independent bodies, such as the economic analysis provided by the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF). The proposals will also incorporate adjustments resulting from the implementation of the landing obligation.

Fishing opportunities negotiated by the Commission and agreed under the Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs), are also incorporated in the Fishing Opportunities Regulations following the meetings of these organisations. The Council of Fisheries Ministers of the European Union discusses the Commission’s proposals and establishes the allocation of fishing opportunities. Member States are then responsible for sharing their national quotas among the various fleet segments.

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