Fisheries: 2023 fishing opportunities for Atlantic, North Sea, Kattegat and Skagerrak, Mediterranean and Black Seas adopted

(Credit: Unsplash)

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

This morning, the ministers responsible for fisheries in the Council agreed on fishing opportunities for 2023 for the Atlantic, Kattegat and Skagerrak, including deep-sea stocks for 2023 and 2024, as well as the Mediterranean and the Black Seas. The two respective proposals were made by the Commission earlier this autumn.

Atlantic, North Sea, Kattegat and Skagerrak

In the Atlantic, Kattegat and Skagerrak, and the North Sea, the agreement includes 27 total allowable catches (TACs) for the fish stocks managed solely by the EU, as well as strengthened measures to address the critical state of eels. As proposed by the Commission, the Council has set 10 TACs in line with maximum sustainable yield (MSY) advice, which is the highest possible annual catch that can sustain the fish stocks over time. The agreement represents a value of €3.5 billion for 187 EU fleet segments with significant fishing activity in the Skagerrak and northeast Atlantic, employing 30,800 full-time fishers. For the first time, thanks to progress in managing stocks, the agreement reached could lead to a very substantial increase in catches in the Atlantic and North Sea in 2023. This could translate into an overall increase of 81 million euro in the value of catches, compared to 2022.

Regarding eels, in view of their critical state, the Council has also agreed to extend the current closure at sea from three to six months to coincide with the juvenile eel migration and mature eels swimming between the sea and rivers.

The Council also set TACs for stocks shared trilaterally with Norway and the United Kingdom, all of them at MSY level.

Since the consultations regarding stocks shared bilaterally with Norway and the United Kingdom are still ongoing, the Council has adopted preliminary contingency TACs for those stocks for the first 3 months of 2023. This contingency plan ensures that fishing can continue seamlessly into the new year, if bilateral agreements with the UK and with Norway are not reached before the end of December. The contingency TACs are generally set at 25% of the 2022 TACs. Exceptions include several stocks fished disproportionately at the beginning of the year and some stocks with significant decreases or increases in the scientific advice for 2023.

Mediterranean and Black Seas

The agreement reached by the Council introduces, for the first time, catch limits to manage Mediterranean species with high commercial value, such as deep-water shrimps in the Strait of Sicily, the Ionian Sea and the Levant Sea. There are also new fishing opportunities for several subregions of the Mediterranean Sea where catch limits are reduced by 3% compared to the 2021 levels and are combined with fleet management measures.

For the western Mediterranean, the agreed regulation continues the implementation of the EU Multi-Annual Plan for demersal stocks, adopted in June 2019. The scientific advice confirms that combined actions need to continue to achieve the goal of sustainable fisheries management by 1 January 2025. Some of those concern for example the reduction of trawling fishing effort by 7%, combined with the implementation of additional management tools, such as catch limits for deep water shrimps and controlling the effort freeze for longliners. To strengthen ecosystem resilience, the regulation also expands the compensation mechanism introduced in 2022, granting 3.5% additional fishing days for trawlers: this notably rewards the use of more selective gears and the establishment of more efficient closure areas to protect juveniles and spawners.

In the Adriatic Sea, the regulation is keeping current measures for the management of the small pelagic species and demersal stocks. Catch reductions will allow the stocks to continue improving.

Finally, for the Black Sea, the regulation continues a roll-over of the TAC for turbot, as well as to carry-over of the unused EU turbot quotas from 2021 to 2023. The Black Sea sprat quotas remain at the 2022 level.

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