Last Thursday, the European Parliament voted in plenary on the multi-annual plan in the North Sea. This is a very relevant plan for European Union (EU) fisheries as it covers almost one third of all fish catches in EU waters and includes species such as cod, haddock, whiting, saithe, sole, plaice and northern prawn.
The report to be voted -the rapporteur of which was the German Socialist Ulrike Rodust, Member of the European Parliament- on the European Commission’s proposal for a multi-annual plan for demersal stocks in the North Sea and the fisheries exploiting these stocks, already contained many of the essential requirements to put an end to overfishing in the region and to restoring fish stocks to sustainable levels in line with the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
Finally, and thanks to a favourable vote by the majority of Members of the European Parliament, the multi-annual plan agreed in Strasbourg ensures that the fishing limits set do not exceed the levels recommended by scientists and that the same objectives and management targets are applied for all demersal fish stocks. Likewise, the plan also includes provisions for the management of recreational fisheries.
Bearing in mind that the North Sea is one of the EU’s largest fishing grounds, which is particularly important for key commercial species such as cod and sole, and that currently more than 40% of the fish stocks in this sea are overexploited, the North Sea plan should represent a major step towards ensuring long-term sustainable fisheries management in order to provide stability for fishermen fishing in these waters. This is supported by a number of scientific studies which have estimated that if these stocks were managed in a sustainable way, stocks could produce an additional million tonnes of fish per year and therefore catches could multiply considerably over the next decade.
But the final terms of the North Sea plan are still not agreed. Over the coming months, representatives of the European Parliament will enter into negotiations with the Council and with the Commission to agree on the final terms of the North Sea Plan, which is expected to enter into force next year. During this negotiation (a process known as a trialogue), ENT Foundation considers that it is imperative that the EU Fisheries Ministers remain in the same line as the Parliament and approve management targets for the North Sea that will ensure the recovery of fish stocks to sustainable levels by 2020, as required in the CFP, thus ensuring thriving fisheries in one of the EU’s largest fishing grounds.