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The Atlantic, Kattegat and Skagerrak: Commission proposes 2023 fishing opportunities with catch limits’ increases for largest stocks

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Today, the European Commission published its proposal for catch limits for fish stocks in the EU waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Kattegat and Skagerrak for 2023, including for deep-sea stock for 2023 and 2024. The proposal concerns 17 total allowable catches (TACs) for the fisheries operating on stocks managed solely by the EU.

Recovery of the largest stocks, notably the horse mackerel, allows the Commission to propose a quota increases. The proposal will be updated after the conclusion of the bilateral (with Norway and the United Kingdom) and multilateral consultations with the Coastal States, and the completion of the decision-making processes in the regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs).

Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, said: “Our proposal for increased catches of Atlantic stocks managed by the EU is good news for our fishers and it comes at the right moment given the dire economic situation they are facing, with rising fuel prices and the impact on the profitability of the sector. The proposal shows that science-based fisheries management pays off. However, I am very concerned about the state of the European eel. We must be decisive in reinforcing the measures at sea and I call on the Member States to act without delay on the other pressures on this stock.”

The proposal is based on scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES):

  • For 8 out 17 stocks, the advice allows the Commission to propose catch limits in line with the objective of sustainable management of fish stocks (maximum sustainable yield, or MSY), with an increase in catch limits for six of these eight stocks.
  • For the nine stocks, scientific data was not sufficient. As a result, the proposal is based on the precautionary approach.  For all of these stocks, a roll-over or decrease in catch limits is proposed.
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Stocks for which scientific advice is available: limits within the maximum sustainable yield

The Commission proposes to set the TACs at MSY-point for six of those eight stocks.

For plaice in the Kattegat, the Commission proposes a TAC below the MSY-point value. Setting a lower TAC for plaice would support the recovery of cod in the same area, which is a by-catch of the same fishery and for which there is a zero catch advice.

For hake in the southern Bay of Biscay, Iberian waters and waters around the Azores (Southern hake), the proposal suggests an increase by 10% of the total allowable catch staying within the MSY-range advised by ICES. This additional rise follows a substantial in-year increase of the TAC for 2022, proposed by the Commission based on scientific advice and agreed by the Council on 17 October 2022. The proposal also maintains a recreational catch limit of two fish per day for Southern seabass in the Bay of Biscay, also at MSY.

Stocks awaiting scientific advice

For Red seabream in the Iberian waters, a deep-sea stock, ICES delivers its advice every two years. The proposal, therefore, includes the TACs for both 2023 and 2024 for that stock.

Another seven stocks, managed solely by the EU, are still awaiting scientific advice (anchovy in the Bay of Biscay, three stocks of Norway lobstercod in the Kattegat, and the deep-sea stock roundnose grenadier in the Skagerrak and Kattegat), while the TAC for anchovy in the Iberian waters and waters around the Azores has already been set until June 2023.

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Stronger protection of eels due to critical stock status

The Commission further proposes to reinforce the existing measures for the protection of eels in all relevant EU waters, specifically in the Atlantic, the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean in order to help the stock recover. The proposal for 2023 extends the closure for any eel fishing activity from three to six consecutive months in marine and adjacent brackish waters and clarifies to Member States how to set closure periods to ensure their effectiveness.

In its advice on the European eel stock, ICES reiterated that the status of the stock remains critical. ICES also advised that there should be zero catches of eel in all habitats and at all life stages.  In addition, ICES advises that non-fisheries impacts, such as habitat destruction and loss, migration barriers (hydropower, pumping stations) and pollution, should be minimised and, where possible, eliminated. In its technical evaluation of the Member States’ implementation of the Eel Regulation published earlier this year, ICES found no overall progress by Member States and highlighted the need for more effort in addressing non-fisheries impacts.

The proposal, which took into account feedback from a stakeholder consultation on how best to implement latest scientific advice, addresses only eel mortality from marine commercial and recreational fisheries. To ensure a comprehensive approach, in parallel to the measures proposed for marine waters in the context of this proposal, the Commission plans to work with Member States to help them strengthen national measures to reduce other mortality factors, such as reducing or restricting inland fishing, restoring or improving river habitats for eels, ensuring safe eel migration routes to prevent injury or death in hydropower stations, combatting predators, and fighting baby eel trafficking.

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Next steps

EU fisheries ministers are expected to adopt the EU fishing opportunities in the Atlantic and other areas for the year 2023, and in some cases for 2024, at the Council meeting on 12-13 December 2022.

Background

Sustainable fishing has made substantial progress in the EU. In 2022, 80% of the TACs were set at MSY level, allowing for a healthy future for the stocks and fishers that rely on them, compared to only 14% of TACs in 2009.

Stakeholders were consulted based on the Commission’s annual Communication Towards more sustainable fishing in the EU: state of play and orientations for 2023.

Tables below outline the details of today’s proposal for stocks solely managed by the EU. The tables refer to the EU quotas, not the TACs, as the EU quotas are the quantities that are available to EU fishers.

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