“European Council of Ministers secure agreement” 


The Agriculture and Fisheries Council reached today a political agreement on a regulation concerning the 2020 catch limits for the main commercial fish stocks in the Atlantic, the North Sea and international fisheries in which EU vessels participate. 

The quota-setting exercise is never easy and this year it took us several hours of negotiations to get to an agreement. But I am glad to announce that it is a balanced one that reconciles all the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy – environmental and socio-economic sustainability – to the benefit of the fish stocks, fishing sector and the EU citizens at large. 

With today’s agreement the Council restated its strong commitment to the objective of the CFP – environmental, economic and social sustainability – the provisions of the multiannual management plans currently in force, and the best available scientific advice. 

In light of the difficulties faced by EU fishermen in relation to mixed fisheries in certain areas and the risk of choke species, the Council decided to continue for one year the previously agreed pool mechanism for quota exchanges. Choke species are those that have a low quota that, when exhausted, can cause a vessel to stop fishing even if it still has quota for other species. 

In order to address the difficult situation of cod and whiting stocks in the Celtic Sea and cod in Kattegat, the Council decided to introduce remedial measures with the aim of improving the selectivity of fishing gears and reducing bycatches. 

Concerning seabass, it was decided to slightly increase the by-catch levels in the Northern areas and grant additional flexibility in their management. The bag limit for seabass recreational fisheries was set to two specimen per fisherman per day under certain conditions, and only from 1 March to 30 November 2020 for Northern seabass.


The Council agreement largely confirmed the initial Commission proposal, which established fishing opportunities in the form of yearly total allowable catches (TACs) and quotas by fish stocks in the different fishing zones. TACs and quotas concern stocks that the EU manages either autonomously or jointly with third countries, for instance with Norway in the North Sea and the Skagerrak, or through agreements reached in the framework of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs). 

Based on the scientific advice provided by the International council for the exploration of the sea (ICES), the Commission had proposed for 2020 to: 

  1. increase or keep current catch limits for 32 stocks, 
  1. reduce it for 40 stocks. 

One of the main objectives of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is to ensure high long-term fishing yields (maximum sustainable yield) by 2020 at the latest. In December 2018, 59 stocks were already fished at MSY levels. 

In a further statement released by the European Commission it went on to say: 

We had long and intense negotiations, but finally we are here to announce that next year we will enter a new era of European fisheries. 

I would like to draw your attention to 4 key highlights we all have agreed on. 

First, with a long term ambition, today we reached an agreement proving our credibility to deliver on the maximum sustainable yield objective that we all have committed to under the Common Fisheries Policy. Next year the EU Member States’ fleet will fish at the level that would not hinder the regeneration of the stocks. 

Second, thanks to the efforts made by European fishermen and women we already see that sustainable fishing pays off. Sustainability in fisheries serves both our planet and our fishing communities who deserve a chance to reap real economic rewards. 

Many success stories show us that stocks that have been overfished can recover thanks to the ambitious actions taken. This is the case for Northern hake: today fishers can catch twice as much as in 2008. This is the case with Northern seabass: emergency measures agreed in 2015 have led to maximum sustainable yield fishing after only three years. 

Today’s efforts will have an impact already in the following year. We agreed on a number of substantial increases for more than 25 valuable fish stocks. The more sustainable we are, the more prosperous European fishermen and women will be. 

Third, following the collapse of Cod in the Celtic Sea we agreed on a comprehensive package of measures to stimulate the regeneration of the stocks in this sea basin. 

We agreed to stop targeting Cod in the Celtic Sea and only allow limited bycatch where it is unavoidable in the fishery of the other stocks. This will also apply to Cod West of Scotland, Whiting in the Irish Sea and Whiting in the Celtic Sea. 

I want to especially stress that for the first time the focus of the agreed fisheries management is on strict measures increasing selectivity. The selectivity enables fishers to minimize the unavoidable catches. Increase of mesh sizes, extension of protection zones and the monitoring measures introduced will improve selectivity and sustainability of fishing activities in the Celtic Sea and the Kattegat. 

Today’s overall agreement for the Atlantic and the North Sea stocks brings 99.4 percent of landings in the EU from sustainable sources. For some of the remaining stocks the agreement foresees even stricter conservation measures. 

Fourth, we are extending sustainable fisheries to new sea basins For the first time ever, this year, the Commission has proposed fishing opportunities covering the Mediterranean Sea. Together with Member States we agreed to a 10 percent reduction of fishing effort for demersal species in the Mediterranean Sea. For the Black Sea, we have reached a compromise on quotas for the two most important commercial species, sprat and turbot, shared between Bulgaria and Romania. 

On this positive note, I would like to thank the Finnish Presidency, Member States and my Commission colleagues for their work and constructive cooperation. The balanced compromise, which reflects the importance of the three pillars of sustainability – environmental, social and economic – will lead to thriving fishermen, women and coastal communities as well as healthy seas and oceans. 

Today we showed that we can keep up with a high pace ensuring sustainability in fisheries. It must be a new standard for the future. 



2020 fishing opportunities in the Atlantic & North Sea

by editor time to read: 5 min