EU reaches provisional agreement on North Sea management plan

Published on December 8, 2017

In the early hours of the morning, the Estonian Presidency of the EU announced that the trilogue negotiations between the Parliament, Council and Commission had been concluded on the North Sea multiannual management plan (NSMAP). The final document will not be made public until later this month.

The Council press release informs us that the agreement includes fishing mortality ranges. There is concern that this allows for overfishing because they give provision for Ministers to set quotas above Fmsy. This is in contradiction to the EU’s own definition of overfishing as well as Article 2.2 of the CFP Basic Regulation which states that all quotas must be set below Fmsy in order to increase stock biomass above Bmsy.

Linnéa Engström (Greens, SE), vice-chair of the European Parliament Fisheries Committee criticised the deal saying “I have no faith that this plan will achieve its objectives of restored and abundant fish stocks in the North Sea by 2020.”

The Fisheries Committee does have the power to not sign off on the deal and make further amendments, however, this is unlikely and rapporteur Ulrike Rodust (S&D, DE) viewed the deal as progress: “a management of North Sea fisheries that is consistent with the goals of the CFP reform offers better prospects for fishermen, by ensuring long-term sustainability”

A spokesperson for the Pew Charitable Trusts was less positive, stating, “by agreeing to water down the NSMAP and include flexibility to overfish, the EU Council, Commission and Parliament have made it harder to reach the CFP’s 2020 deadline to end overfishing, just days before fishing limits are agreed for 2018.”

In addition to providing fishing mortality ranges, the agreement also contains provisions to restrict recreational fisheries, provide less protection for non-target stocks such as the commercially collapsed Kattegat cod, and according to Engström “control provisions (were) deleted”.