Meeresschutz und Fischerei

Agreement on Fishing Opportunities for 2021 in AGRIFISH Council

At the meeting of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council, the EU Fisheries Ministers reached an agreement on the fishing opportunities for 2021 in certain areas of Atlantic and North Sea, Mediterranean and Black Seas as well as for certain deep-sea stocks.

The European Commission proposals were largely in line with the best availablescientific advice, and the Council agreed to some of those measures, such as decreases in fishing opportunities for three deep-sea stocks, measures on the European eel and red coral in the Mediterranean, as well as catch limits on turbot and sprat in the Black Sea.

Other measures agreed by the Council do not reflect the ambition to protect our marine environment and to end overfishing. Most notably, the Council did not agree to the Commission proposal for a 15% reduction in the fishing effort in the western Mediterranean, opting for a 7,5% reduction instead.

The UK’s departure from the European Union also poses big questions about the management of marine resources. In case of no deal, the EU and UK have to find an agreement on the management of shared stocks under UN rules. To be prepared for this negotiation, the Commission proposed to proportionally roll over the total allowable catches for 2020 into the first 3 months of 2021. The Council endorsed this proposal with several limited exceptions.

Although some progress has been made on overfishing in recent years, the EU missed its legal deadline to end overfishing alreadyby 2020, as stipulated in the Common Fisheries Policy. Marine life faces numerous stressors as a result of climate change and biodiversity loss, and continuing overfishing only intensifies the already critical situation.

Ska Keller, President of Greens/EFA comments:

It is regrettable that the Council did not follow scientific recommendations on the western Mediterranean, especially as the EU already missed its deadline to end overfishingfor this year. In the Mediterranean and Black Sea, 75% stocks are overfished. The urgency to act is high, and the failure to stop overfishing seriously undermines our efforts to tackle the climate and biodiversity crises. While not reducing fishing effort might be beneficial for the fishing industry in the short term, it will be detrimental to the fishers in the long run, as we will deplete our marine ecosystems. On the other hand, we welcome the cases where the Council followed scientific advice, such as with deep-sea stocks.

We have to allow stocks time to recover, and focus on sustainable management of marine resources. This needs to be a priority, especially in light of the UK’s departure from the EU. With the future relationship with the UK still under negotiations, this brings a lot of uncertainty on management of our shared stocks. No matter what the outcome will be, we cannot allow the uncertainty to lead to degradation and overexploitation of the marine environment. We cannot lose sight of our commitment to end overfishing and to boost the resilience of marine ecosystems.