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EU charts path to sustainable fishing in 2011

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The European Commission wants to haul EU fishing limits back to sustainable levels in 2011, in line with recommendations made by science experts.

The Commission published its report launching discussions on fishing opportunities in EU waters in 2011. The document sets out how the Commission intends to act on the scientific advice it receives on the state of fish stocks when proposing catch limits and quotas for next year.

Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki would like to see a tougher method applied to setting quotas and days at sea, in order to meet international standards. "I want to be clear that the quota levels set must respect all the European Union's commitments to sustainability, our commitments to nearby States, and the commitments we have made under the long-term plans."

Back in 2002, all the Member States of the European Union agreed that fish stocks should be exploited so that they could deliver the highest possible sustainable catches, and that this should be done by 2015. There has been progress since then, with 11 stocks meeting the target in 2009 compared with only two in 2002. Yet most stocks are still overfished.

The Commission draws up a report on fishing opportunities every year to explain to fishers and their industry what common rules will be used to set the quotas. Common rules are put in place to ensure that all fleets are treated equally and fairly. The Commission will base itself on the following guiding principles when making proposals: environmental sustainability; stability in quotas as far as possible; implement long-term plans; meet international commitments; reduce overfishing and rebuild stocks; use international consensus scientific advice; where there is uncertainty, use more caution.

The Commission relies on scientific advice from two international committees of experts when proposing fish quotas: the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, based in Copenhagen, and the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries. This advice will be available in June/July.

The Commission will now send the report to the fishers, others concerned with the industry and Member States for consultation and examination. After taking account of their replies, the Commission may adapt the strategy before using it to propose the fishing possibilities for next year.


Catch limits for the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea and the North-East Atlantic (including the North Sea) are set annually by fisheries ministers upon proposals by the Commission to come out in the autumn. For fisheries targeting deep-sea species, they are fixed every two years. Fisheries in the Mediterranean are not managed through catch limits, except in the case of bluefin tuna.

TACs and quotas - EU fishing rules

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