Western Waters management plan gets final green light by the European Parliament

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13 Feb

On the 12th of February, the European Parliament plenary adopted by a large majority the Multiannual Management Plan for fisheries in the Western Waters. The Plan has also been agreed by the EU Council of Ministers but not finally adopted as yet.

The Plan contains important and positive provisions concerning recreational fisheries. The European Anglers Alliance (EAA) and the European Fishing Tackle Trade Association (EFTTA) are pleased that some of the recreational fisheries sector’s demands have been taken into consideration. 

For sea bass, geographically the agreed plan covers both Northern and Southern sea bass stocks, from the North Sea down to Gibraltar (ICES divisions 4b, 4c, 7a, 7b, 7d–h, 7j, 6a 8a, 8b, 8c and 9a). The EAA and the EFTTA applaud this part of the plan as sea bass is one and the same species in the whole area but managed differently north and south of the 48th latitude (Brest, France). For example, today the minimum landing size for commercial fisheries is 42 cm in north but only 38 cm in south, while 42 cm is the rule for recreational fisheries in both north and south. EAA and EFTTA want to see the 42 cm, or higher, minimum landing size apply to all sea bass fisheries. Under this Plan the Commission is empowered to adopt delegated acts, to establish minimum landing size. In fact, according to the EAA and the EFTTA, the Commission would have to make 42 cm, or higher, the rule for the whole area, “..to ensure the protection of juveniles of marine organisms”1. Indeed, bass grow quicker in southern, warmer waters but the first time spawning length is the same2

Concerning recreational fisheries, the Plan (Article 11(2)) establishes that “the Council shall refer to transparent and objective criteria, including those of environmental, social and economic nature. The criteria used may include, in particular, the impact of recreational fishing on the environment, the societal importance of that activity and its contribution to the economy in coastal areas”. This is the first time that recreational fisheries is treated almost on an equal footing with commercial fisheries by EU legislation. 

The Plan also requires (Article 11(3)) that “Where appropriate, Member States shall take the necessary and proportionate measures for the monitoring and collection of data for a reliable estimation of the actual recreational catch levels.”     

Finally, the plan clearly states that recreational fisheries is exempted from the landing obligation. To ensure consistency between different sea basins, the co-legislators agreed to extend this exemption also to the Baltic Sea and to the North Sea by amending the two respective Management Plans via this Regulation. EAA and EFTTA have advocated for exempting recreational fisheries from the landing obligation for several years and will continue to work to ensure that the same exemption is included in other present and coming EU Management Plans. 

The agreement must now be adopted by the EU Council of Ministers. It will enter into force one day after the publication in the Official Journal of the European Union, which presumably will happen within a few weeks from now. 

The text adopted by the European Parliament is available here.

1 - Article 9 - Technical measures: “the fixing of minimum conservation reference sizes for any of the stocks to which this Regulation applies, to ensure the protection of juveniles of marine organisms.”
2 - Quote from ICES WKBASS REPORT 2018 - section Maturity: “Maturity has been studied for sea bass sampled by France in the Bay of Biscay.... The size at which 50% of the females are mature (L50%) is 42.14 cm (low limit 41.31 cm and upper limit 43.08 cm).” www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Expert%20Group%20Report/acom/2018/WKBASS/wkbass_2018.pdf

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