EU cuts in fishing quotas
BRUSSELS, May 30 (Reuters) – The European Commission said on Friday it will make deeper than usual cuts in fishing quotas in 2009 to tackle dwindling fishing reserves.
It said in a policy document that 88 percent of EU fish stocks were overexploited, compared to 80 percent at this time last year and a global average of 25 percent.
Europe’s share of fish products from domestic resources has also fallen from 75 percent in the early 1970s to 40 percent as it depends more and more on imports.
Scientists say that unless fishing is curbed — or in some cases, stopped altogether — many species in EU waters risk extinction. Cod is a prime example, especially in the North Sea and in waters off the west coast of Scotland.
The Commission said it was therefore changing its approach to setting total allowable catches (TACs) that are allocated by quota around the 27-country bloc.
In its 2009 quota proposals, the Commission said it would abandon its policy of not varying TACs by over 15 percent and cut them by at least 25 percent for the most threatened stocks.
Scientists have advised zero fishing for the most threatened stocks, but the Commission usually tries to balance the need for stock preservation with the need to keep fishermen in business.
“Inevitably, the Commission doesn’t think that the only element to take into account is the biological one … there’s also the need for economic sustainability,” said Ernesto Penas Lado, head of the Commission’s fisheries conservation unit.
“Our proposals are already some kind of compromise, to try and bring those two things together. If the fishing industry is against measures, then experience shows us that they are very difficult to implement,” he told a news conference.
For other species, less at risk from overfishing, annual TAC reductions would not be higher than 20 percent, the Commission said.
In some cases, where fish numbers are actually increasing thanks to long-term recovery plans — like Bay of Biscay sole, North Sea haddock — annual TACs could be increased by up to 25 percent.