Fisheries technical measures: An important tool to reach good environmental status

Published on September 5, 2019

The objective in the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) from 2008 is to reach Good Environmental Status (GES) by 2020 at the latest. Technical measures are a broad set of rules which govern how, where and when fishermen may fish, to ensure “the conservation of fisheries resources and the protection of marine ecosystems”. The recently adopted measures provide important tools for fisheries managers challenged by climate change, a biodiversity crisis and collapsed fish stocks such as the Eastern Baltic Cod – if they are used.

The MSFD is intended to “…contribute to coherence between different policies and foster the integration of environmental concerns into other policies, such as the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP)”, and explicitly requires fishing activity to be managed so that conservation objectives for the broader marine ecosystem might also be achieved.

The Technical measures regulation (EU) 2019/1241 adopted in June this summer provides an opportunity for fisheries- and environment ministers to intensify efforts in the CFP to achieve the MSFD goals.

  • Article 3.2.d) says that the technical measures shall in particular contribute to achievement of GES according to the MSFD
  • Article 31.1 says that at the latest by December 31 the Commission shall submit a report to the European Parliament and the Council on how much the technical measure have contributed to the achievement of the targets in i.a. Article 3 (i.e. MSFD)
  • Article 31.3 says that on the basis of the report in Article 31.1, and when there is evidence that the goals (i.e. in the MSFD) have not been achieved, Member States shall submit an action plan at the latest one year later.

This does not mean that this will actually happen, or that even if Member States do submit action plans, these plans will be any good. But fully utilized they could be used to change course and accelerate efforts to achieve the objectives, such as:

  • The Fishing mortality rate of populations of commercially-exploited species is at or below levels which can produce the maximum sustainable yield (MSY).
  • The Spawning Stock Biomass of populations of commercially-exploited species are above biomass levels capable of producing maximum sustainable yield.
  • The age and size distribution of individuals in the populations of commercially-exploited species is indicative of a healthy population. This shall include a high proportion of old/large individuals and limited adverse effects of exploitation on genetic diversity.
  • The diversity (species composition and their relative abundance) of the trophic guild is not adversely affected due to anthropogenic pressures.
  • Sea-floor integrity is at a level that ensures that the structure and functions of the ecosystems are safeguarded and benthic ecosystems, in particular, are not adversely affected.

More information about the MSFD fisheries related descriptors and GES can be found here (see D3, D4 and D6 in particular).