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Scientific Advice

Last updated: 12/08/2014

Some EU fisheries rules, and particularly catch quotas, are decided based on recommendations from scientists, independent or appointed by the Commission.

The Decision-making Process

Total Allowable Catches (TACs) are generally decided by the fisheries ministers at a Council meeting, discussing a proposal from the Commission. The Commission proposal, in its turn, is based on scientific advice from two main bodies, ICES and STECF. Read more.


There are two key concepts in how the scientists express to what extent a fish stock may be harvested without harm: Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) and the Precautionary Approach (PA). The use of the MSY approach is increasing – a major improvement, in our view – and the EU has committed the Union to achieving MSY by 2015. Read more.

Precautionary Approach

If the MSY principle is aimed at achieving a desired outcome – a high sustainable long term yield that still does not threaten recruitment – the Precautionary Approach (PA) is based on avoiding an undesired outcome: impaired recruitment.

The European Union adopted the precautionary principle in the early 2000s, and since then the principle has come to influence much EU policy, also in areas beyond that of environmental policy. Read more.


The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), an independent scientific body based in Copenhagen. It has delegated its advisory authority to an Advisory Committee (ACOM). Read more.


The Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF), a body of both fisheries and marine biologists, as well as social and economic scientists, is appointed by the Commission. Read more.

Earlier Advice

ICES advice for the Baltic Sea from 2008 can be found here, with analyses by FISH. Read more.