The NSAC and NWWAC requests harmonisation of skates and rays identification guides on an EU wide basis from DG MARE NWWAC/NSAC report skates rays

The NWWAC and NSAC have issued a joint letter of advice to the Commission emphasising the complexities surrounding the setting of TACs for skates and rays

In a recent communication addressed to Ms. Charlina Vitcheva, Director-General of DG MARE, the North Western Waters Advisory Council (NWWAC) and the North Sea Advisory Council (NSAC) emphasised the complexities surrounding Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for skates and rays in the European waters.

The letter, focusing on the challenges of setting TACs for multiple commercially significant species, underscores the need for careful consideration and stakeholder involvement in management decisions.

Following a joint workshop held in February 2023 and subsequent advice submitted in May 2023, the joint Focus Group has been diligently examining the intricacies associated with the group TAC setting approach for skates and rays in the North Western Waters and the North Sea. This work builds upon previous evaluations and discussions dating back to 2015, as well as recommendations made in 2017 by the Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE).

The advisory councils have recommended several measures to address these complexities, including the establishment of a single TAC for specific species in certain regions. However, they caution against potential negative consequences such as choke situations and stress the importance of trials to ensure the effectiveness of such measures. Additionally, the councils advocate for legislative flexibility to facilitate cooperation between fishermen and scientists for trials and scientific exemptions, contingent upon robust fisheries control mechanisms.

Moreover, the advisory councils have expressed concerns regarding the application of uniform management rules across diverse elasmobranch species, emphasising the need for tailored approaches considering variations in life histories. They propose further evaluations, improved discard data collection, and increased funding for research to address these challenges comprehensively.

While advocating for stakeholder involvement and prudence in decision-making, the councils recommend holding an expert working group to simulate the consequences of potential changes in TAC setting and management strategies. They emphasise the importance of thorough assessment and caution against hastily implementing any alterations without due consideration.

The North Western Waters and North Sea AC recommend:

  • Holding an STECF EWG to focus on simulation of consequences related to changes in TAC setting and management including issues related to the use of the relative stability allocation key, and specifically the removal of individual commercially important or vulnerable species from the group TAC
  • Improving discard data for all stocks.
  • Trials or assessments to support the survivability exemptions for the main commercial species.
  • Evaluation of management opportunities outside the TAC system and identification of alternative new options
  • More funding should be made available for research on these highly complex issues, in particular for the main commercially fished stocks and the most vulnerable stocks.

The ACs caution against a rushed approach to the implementation of any changes regarding the management of skates and rays and emphasise the importance of stakeholder involvement at all levels of discussion regarding potential changes. Members stand ready to continue their involvement with and contribution to the work of the European Commission and thank DG MARE for their continued efforts regarding the management of these species.

In conclusion, the joint advisory councils commend efforts towards harmonising TAC setting methods between the European Union and the United Kingdom. They pledge continued engagement with the European Commission and express gratitude to DG MARE for their ongoing commitment to the management of skates and rays.

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