The European Commission has proposed the first comprehensive plan for the region of North Sea and its fishermen. The plan covers more than 70 percent of the fishing sector, sets catch limits that restore and maintain fish stocks above levels that can produce the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) and brings decision-making closer to the fishermen.
The main aim of the plan is to ensure that fishing is managed sustainably. Fishing at MSY levels allows the fishing industry to profit with the highest amount of fish from the sea, while keeping fish stocks sustainable and healthy. This multi-annual proposal also defines ranges within catch limits that are set, whereby fishing in the higher part of the ranges will only be possible under clearly defined conditions in line with MSY. As part of the aim to protect fish species, the plan also includes an obligation to land important species only in designated ports. Moreover, under the plan, the EU is obliged to take action any time a particular species of the North Sea stock is endangered.
The North Sea fisheries are very complex and involve vessels from at least seven coastal Member States as well as Norway. The vessels use a variety of equipment and their catch consists of many different species. The plan therefore aims to manage and coordinate these complex interactions and operations. Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, commented on this proposed plan that “Multi-annual plans are an important tool to shift decision-making to the regional level,” while adding that ”We are proposing to bring the North Sea, one of our richest fishing grounds, under such a multi-annual plan. Its long-term approach is not only aimed at improving the conservation of stocks, but also at increasing predictability for our fishermen in the long run.”