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

EAPO has written to the European Commission urging it to address challenges in south western waters it has previously highlighted. Photo: Moses Project

Concerns Raised Over Fishing Opportunities for 2024 and Climate Change Impact

Esben Sverdrup-Jensen, President of the European Association of Fish Producers Organisations (EAPO), has written to the European Commission, presenting the South Western Waters Working Group’s (SWWWG) position paper on fishing opportunities for 2024.

The letter delves into key issues and recommendations regarding the state of South Western Waters.


Positive Outlook Overshadowed by Challenges

EAPO members commend the positive spotlight on South Western Waters stocks during the Commission’s state of play for 2024. The Bay of Biscay, in particular, saw a historic achievement in 2021 under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), with no stocks reported as overfished. However, the optimism is overshadowed by the challenges revealed in 2023, as the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) advises a decrease in catches for most stocks in 2024.

Climate Change Impact on Recruitment Levels

EAPO emphasises the need to address impacts beyond fishing, pointing to climate change’s role in declining recruitment levels for South Western Waters stocks. While the industry has adhered to fishing opportunities aligned with ICES advice and European fishing legislation, recruitment levels are gradually decreasing, particularly in the Bay of Biscay. Spanish research highlights the influence of climate change on these stocks, urging a comprehensive analysis of its full extent.


Multiannual TACs for Improved Visibility

Acknowledging the proposed Council Regulation for 2024, 2025, and 2026 fishing opportunities, EAPO welcomes the initiative for seven multiannual Total Allowable Catches (TACs) in South Western Waters. This approach aims to enhance fishers’ visibility into their opportunities. However, EAPO stresses the importance of addressing stocks showing significant declines and calls for a careful balance to achieve Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY).

Concerns Over ICES Approach and Data Limitations

Expressing concern over ICES’s approach on category 3 data limited stocks, EAPO highlights opposition to using previous years’ catches as a reference point for future fishing opportunities. The association emphasises the need for a more balanced approach, incorporating available indicators and data variations over two years for stability and visibility.


Stock-by-Stock Recommendations

The letter concludes with EAPO’s recommendations on specific stocks, including Hake, Sole, Megrim, Anglerfish, Pollack, Plaice, Whiting, and Seabass. EAPO urges careful consideration of geographical distribution, environmental impacts, and the necessity for management measures, reflecting the complexities of each stock.


Esben Sverdrup-Jensen and EAPO members seek collaborative solutions to sustain fisheries in South Western Waters, balancing environmental considerations with the livelihoods of fishers. The letter underscores the importance of proactive and informed decision-making for the long-term health of these vital marine resources.

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