Today the Commission has proposed Total Allowable Catches (TAC) for a number of species for 2019 and 2020, in an effort to restore deep-sea fish stocks in the North-East Atlantic. Based on scientific advice, these new measures will enable stocks to gradually rebuild to sustainable levels.
“Our proposal invites Member States to apply a precautionary approach to reverse the worrying situation of declining deep-sea fish stocks”, said Commissioner Karmenu Vella, responsible for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. “It is in our shared interest to ensure that we have healthy fish stocks in deep-sea waters, for the sake of our fishermen and coastal communities, their livelihoods and for our marine ecosystems. Evidence also shows that sustainable fish stocks go hand in hand with a thriving industry.”
The majority of deep-sea species are highly vulnerable and take a long time to mature. The Commission’s proposal is based on precautionary scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES), and takes into account the obligation for fishermen to bring to land all catches as of 1st January 2019. The proposal reduces the catch limits in seven fish management areas compared to 2017-2018 levels, including for alfonsinos and black scabbardfish. Fishing for orange roughy will remain prohibited.
At the same time, positive scientific advice concerning red seabream around the Azores and roundnose grenadier in South Western waters, has allowed the Commission to propose increased quotas for these species over the next two years.
The Commission also proposes to cancel the TAC management system for three species (greater forkbeard in the North-East Atlantic, roundnose grenadier in the North Sea and black scabbardfish in the North Sea and Skagerrak), as they are fished in small quantity which does not prevent them from reproducing.
The scientific advice for deep-sea sharks was delivered on 5 October and is currently being analysed. The Commission will complete the current proposal in view of its adoption by EU Member States in the Council, currently scheduled for 19-20 November.
Deep-sea fisheries account for less than 1% of all fish caught in the North-East Atlantic. Over the years, fishing activity and associated jobs have been declining together with deep-sea stocks. At the same time, data on the structure of the stocks, age classes or frequency of young fish recruitment are often difficult to gather because of the deep-sea marine environment. Scientific advice recommends applying the precautionary approach to these stocks. The goal is to improve the state of stocks and allow for fishing at Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY), the level that allows the fishing industry to take the highest amount of fish from the sea while keeping fish stocks healthy.
Fishing for deep-sea species has been regulated by the European Union since 2003.