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Common Fisheries Policy

Under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), every year, the European Commission proposes a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for each commercial species for each area within the EU 200-mile limit. These TACs are then shared between EU countries in the form of national quotas. The TACs are agreed by the Council of Ministers at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council—normally with some increases from the original proposals—at the end of the year. This year’s meeting will be held on 14 and 15 December.

The CFP has recently undergone several key reforms, including: a phased ban on discarding fish (effective for pelagic fisheries as of 1 January 2015); a legally binding commitment to fishing at sustainable levels; and increasingly decentralised decision making. These measures are being phased in through 2014 to 2020.

This debate pack provides an overview of the fishing industry, fisheries policy and management and details some of the key concerns fishermen may have in 2016 (and beyond) in addition to conservation groups.

2016 quotas

The European Commission proposals for TACs in 2016 were published on 10 November 2015. The Commission proposes to maintain or increase the fish quotas for 35 stocks, and reduce catches for 28 stocks. This proposal includes cuts to quotas of cod, skates and rays, haddock, herring and many more important commercial fisheries.

Declining Seabass stocks

Responding to scientific advice showing declining stocks and overfishing of bass, the European Commission introduced a number of emergency measures to protect the stock in 2015. These included a commercial trawling ban, a recreational fishing limit and a maximum catch per month by gear type. The commercial trawling ban has been reintroduced for the first six-months of 2016.

Demersal fishery discard ban in 2016

In 2016, the discard ban will be extended to demersal fisheries. This will mean fishermen have to land all the fish they catch when fishing in demersal fisheries. Demersal fish are often caught together in a mixed demersal fishery. This means that although fishermen may be directed towards particular species or species groups, demersal fish species are often taken as a by-catch. This is likely to make the discard ban more complicated to implement and manage than in the pelagic discard ban.

Quota Management

The MMO divides the English fishing fleet into three sectors and is responsible for manging and allocating that quota. Some fishermen are concerned about this process, in particular the low proportion of quota allocated to smaller boats. Earlier this year, the European Commission raised concerns about the MMO’s monitoring and control of fishing activity by under 10m vessels in England.

Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY)

As part of the reformed CFP there was a commitment to ensure that fish stocks were fished at their Maximum Sustainable Yield MSY) by 2020 at the latest. However, there are many fish stocks being overfished. There are likely to be tensions between the fishing industry and environmental groups regarding the quotas set for various stocks in 2016.

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