The EAPO has written to the Director-General of DG MARE, Charlina Vitcheva requesting a benchmark on Bay of Biscay sole from ICES EAPO commission south western commission EAPO advice SW water 2024

The European Commission has responded to EAPO advice on Fishing Opportunities for South Western (SW) Waters in 2024

Commission responds to EAPO Advice on Fishing Opportunities for South Western Waters in 2024

In response to the European Association of Fish Producers Organisations (EAPO), Fabrizio Donatella, Director of Fisheries Policy at the Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, has shared insights into the fishing opportunities for EU stocks in the South Western Waters for the year 2024.

In a letter dated 20 November, Mr Sverdrup-Jensen from the South Western Waters working group conveyed concerns and recommendations regarding fishing opportunities for the upcoming year. Mr Donatella advised Mr Sverdrup-Jensen, the Council of Ministers made decisive choices on 12 December 2023, resulting in increased Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for stocks in the Cantabrian Sea and Atlantic Iberian waters. Conversely, there were substantial reductions in TACs for stocks in the Bay of Biscay, aligning with the latest advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES).

While the Council adopted 14 stocks based on Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) advice, as proposed by the Commission, Mr. Donatella acknowledged the challenges posed by the state of stocks in the Bay of Biscay. Particularly, decisions regarding this area were noted as particularly difficult.

Mr Donatella believes a positive note was struck with anticipation for the next ICES benchmarks on sole and Southern seabass in the Bay of Biscay scheduled for early 2024. Multiannual TACs for key stocks such as whiting and pollack in the Bay of Biscay and Atlantic Iberian waters were established for two years or more to ensure stability. However, a provisional TAC of six months was agreed upon for the stock component of POL/8ABDE.

Responding to concerns about the “rfb rule” implemented by ICES in 2022, Mr. Donatella clarified that the Commission cannot interfere with the ICES advice process. He invited stakeholders to engage with national administrations and ICES to improve data quality and availability for whiting and pollack in the Bay of Biscay.

Acknowledging the profitability of fisheries when MSY advice is properly implemented, the Commission commended the fishing industry for sustainable stock management. To enhance sustainable practices in the Bay of Biscay, stakeholders were invited to discuss and agree on technical measures, especially for pollack, under regionalisation.

Mr. Donatella emphasised the common goal of keeping all stocks in the South Western Waters above MSY Btrigger to avoid fluctuations. He also clarified that fishing opportunities must adhere to rules set in multiannual plans adopted by co-legislators, and recommendations beyond those rules cannot be implemented.

In conclusion, Mr. Donatella expressed gratitude for the collaboration and valuable inputs from stakeholders, encouraging continued engagement in the coming years. The fishing opportunities for 2024 aim to balance economic interests with sustainable fisheries management practices.

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