At their meeting on 29 November, EU fisheries ministers agreed total allowable catches (TACs) and quotas for deep sea fish species for 2011 and 2012 in community waters and the north east Atlantic. Depending on the species and area on the whole there were either slight increases or a maintenance of current catch limits, with the exception of a few TAC reductions. The ministers also agreed a phasing out of fishing for deep-water sharks from 2012.
Fisheries for species such as forkbeards, red seabream and blue ling will have no change in the TACs for the next two years. Black scabbardfish and roundnose grenadier will see reductions, but less than that advised by scientists.
The Commission, in its proposal of 6 October (See CFP-reformwatch article: EU deep sea fisheries: proposal for 2011 and 2012 quotas published), had recommended there be no increase in quotas until “positive trends” in stock levels have been identified. The scientific advice provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) had declared that deep sea species are “outside biological limits” and should be reduced.
Environmental groups were unanimous in condemning the outcome. The NGO Seas at Risk remarked that “Given the complete uncertainty about the sustainability of these fisheries and the indications that deep sea stocks are in a bad shape, it is far from clear that the stocks can cope with the levels of fishing agreed”.
The Pew Environment Group “regrets the Council’s decision to set quotas for deep-sea species even higher than the already flawed limits proposed by the Commission….. With this decision, the European Union is in breach of its international commitment to protect deep-sea species and ecosystems in the northeast Atlantic.”
Minutes of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting, 29 November.