Total allowable Catch (TAC) means, just as indicated, the total amount of a marine species that is allowed to be caught in a specific area. However, within the current EU fisheries management system the acronym TAC is rather misleading as it in reality means total quantity of a species allowed to be landed.
In the EU, the European Commission proposes an annual TAC for most commercial species based on recommendations issued by scientists. The level of the TAC is later decided by the European Agriculture and Fisheries Council, consisting of agriculture and fisheries ministers from all European Member States (MS). The TAC is then shared between the MS based on something called “relative stability” where fishing rights are divided between countries and operators based on records of historical fishing activity.
The advantage of the TAC system is, that it is in theory easy for managers to set a TAC based on scientific recommendations which ensures that the output of the fisheries is not exceeding the level of harvesting that the fish stocks can handle.
However, as the current EU TAC system is based on landings, it doesn’t necessarily control the amount of pressure that the fisheries are exerting on the fish stock, as many things can occur between the soaking of the net and the landing of the fish in the harbour (such as discard where unwanted fish and other species are thrown overboard). This has lead to a lot of criticism from various stakeholders and many voices are now raised for the introduction of catch quotas, where the operators would be allowed (and obliged) to land their entire catch.