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European Commission Reviews Fishing Quotas

by Ulrika Lomas, for, Brussels

19 September 2006

The European Commission on Friday adopted a Communication outlining the principles which it intends to follow when setting annual fishing opportunities for 2007.

These proposals will be based on the most recent scientific advice when it becomes available in October.

The overall guiding aim is to attain sustainability in all fisheries in which European fishermen are involved, in line with the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy. Common principles are therefore proposed according to the conservation needs of the fish stocks concerned, while keeping in mind the need for equity with regard to stakeholders and fishing communities.

The Commission has proposed to set management measures that are always proportionate to the biological risk involved.

To this end, fish stocks have been grouped into categories defined by level of biological risk. For all the fish stocks in each of these categories, similar management measures will be proposed. This will ensure a fair and even approach.

The 6 categories of fish stocks identified are: 1) stocks which are currently fished according to the principles of maximum sustainable yield (MSY), 2) stocks that are overfished with regard to MSY but inside safe biological limits, 3) stocks outside safe biological limits, 4) stocks subject to long-term plans, 5) short-lived species and 6) stocks for which the precise state is unknown but which are not at high biological risk.

Long-term fisheries plans, which the EU began to adopt following the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy in 2002, are at the heart of decision-making in fisheries. Annual fishing possibilities and days at sea should be proposed according to the relevant long-term plans so that the stocks can rebuild and fisheries can improve.

This is especially important for the recovery plans for stocks near to collapse. So far, the EU has adopted recovery plans for four stocks of cod, northern hake and southern hake and Norway lobster. The Commission has also proposed plans for Baltic cod, western channel sole, and North Sea plaice and sole and these are currently before the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament.

The quotas proposed each year also depend on the EU's international commitments. These include decisions reached with Norway and other nearby states as well as with the other Contracting Parties in regional fisheries management organisations.

Introducing the principles, Joe Borg, European Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, stated that:

"This Communication sets out a common basis for discussing with stakeholders how best to secure long-term stability in our fisheries while trying to avoid damaging disruptions in the short term. I look forward to a constructive debate with them on this crucial subject."

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