Multi-annual Management Plans in the Common Fisheries Policy


A briefing note for Co-legislators

Multi-annual Management Plans will be the
principal vehicle for the delivery of CFP objectives in the years ahead. As
such, it is of paramount importance that they are well designed, workable,
absorb the lessons learned from the past, and fit well within the wider context
of the CFP and the EU’s international obligations.

Co-legislators are currently engaged in
trialogue discussions over the shape and design of a multi annual plan for the
Baltic. Although not set in stone, there is a belief that as the first of the
new generation plans, the Baltic will set the pattern for future plans in the
North Sea and Western Waters

, along with implementation of the EU landing obligation, the achievement of maximum sustainable yield and regionalisation
lie at the heart of the CFP as reformed in 2013. It is important that all of
these elements are treated with equal respect.

The experience of the EU Cod Management Plan,
and its subsequent evaluation by STECF (the scientific body which advises the
Commission) illustrated the weakness of single-species management plans. It
also highlighted the need to ensure that, as far as possible, quotas in mixed
fisheries are coherent and do not move too far in divergent directions. This
led the Commission to request ICES to suggest fishing mortality ranges in the area at the top of the MSY effort/
yield curve. Using this understanding of MSY would provide managers some room
to manoeuvre to achieve maximum sustainable yield for a group of species caught together in a mixed fishery and would
greatly assist the process of implementing the EU landings obligation. To us it
would seem that this approach would be the most consistent with the CFP’s legal
obligation to ensure that fishing … “activities….are
environmentally sustainable in the long term and ….consistent with the
objectives of achieving economic, social and employment benefits, and of
contributing to the availability of food supplies
.” (Article 2.1 of the CFP
Basic Regulation. 1380/2013)

Looking forward to the full implementation of
the landing obligation, using F ranges
to provide this flexibility is likely to be one of the most important ways in
which choke species in mixed
fisheries may be mitigated. This is going to be an absolutely essential tool in dealing with chokes
in mixed fisheries under the landing obligation. Chokes
arise under the landing obligation when the quota for one species in a mixed
fishery is exhausted, precluding a vessel, fleet or country from catching its
main economic species.

Fisheries managers and fisheries stakeholders
need the co-legislators to provide a workable framework which provides
ambition, direction and guidance, whilst simultaneously avoiding the rigidity
of inflexible plans that cannot adapt to changing circumstances. But to achieve
this it will be important to avoid a narrow, unduly legalistic, interpretation
of MSY which understands MSY only as a point
at the top of an equilibrium single-species yield curve rather than an area in which sustainable high long
term yields can be produced.

In this context, it is extremely important to
appreciate that across all the main species groups in the North East Atlantic,
North Sea and Baltic we are no longer talking about seriously depleted stocks
but rather fisheries at or close to the top of the effort/yield curve. In the
words of ICES:

“Over the last ten to
fifteen years, we have seen a general decline in fishing mortality in the
Northeast Atlantic and the Baltic Sea. The stocks have reacted positively to
the reduced exploitation and we’re observing growing trends in stock sizes for
most of the commercially important stocks. For the majority of stocks, it has
been observed that fishing mortality has decreased to a level consistent with
Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) – meaning levels that are not only sustainable
but will also deliver high long term yields.”

Eskild Kirkegard, Chairman of the
Advisory Council of the International Council for Exploration of the Seas, July 2015, State of the Stocks
Seminar, Brussels

8. Against this background, the fierce but
ultimately sterile arguments currently raging about the precise definition of
maximum sustainable yield, tend towards the theological; This applies
especially to the definition and use of Bmsy as the putative goal of fisheries
management. During the meeting with stakeholders in 2015, ICES explained very
clearly that:

“When a stock is fished at a constant F
value, the SSB will not remain constant but will fluctuate due to natural
factors, particularly naturally varying recruitment. If the fishery is
constrained so that F = Fmsy, the stock can be expected to fluctuate around a
notional biomass Bmsy.”

(MIACO 2015 Document 6a Fisheries Advice MSY

We concur with this notion that aiming and realising fishing mortalities
in the region of Fmsy are expected to lead to stocks growing to high biomass
levels but always conditional on recruitment and abundance of potential
predator species.

The essentially pointless doctrinal disputes about MSY overlook the
broader issue: how do we manage mixed fisheries within the context of the EU
landings obligation? For most stocks we are already in the zone of high yield
fisheries and narrow legalistic arguments about the exact point of MSY misses
the big picture which is that understanding
MSY in terms of fishing mortality ranges will provide managers with scope to
set TACs that are coherent in mixed fisheries

9. It is worth recalling that the political reality
for those stocks which are jointly managed with Norway is that the quotas are
set through mutually agreed consultations each year,
notwithstanding the contents of any EU plans that are in place.

It is a
tenet of good governance that the views of the regulated should be taken into
account by the regulators in both the design and implementation of new
regulations; Europêche represents the collective views of some 45 thousand
fishing vessel operators and 80 thousand fishermen working many diverse
fisheries and from many different sizes and styles of vessels; all of whom will
be directly affected by the new
generation management plans. As such we consider that we are not just
opinion-holders but stakeholders and
that as such our view should be given due weight.