In its initial proposal for fishing opportunities for 2021 in the Mediterranean and Black seas, the Commission had included preliminary catch limits for European eel, as well as provision for the three-month fishing closure. This proposal has now been revised, in line with the multiannual management plan for European eel in the Mediterranean Sea.
The Commission published its proposal for 2021 fishing opportunities for fish stocks in the Mediterranean and Black seas (COM(2020)377) on 17 August 2020. The proposal contained catch limits and a closure period for European eel to be applicable in the entire Mediterranean Sea, including Geographical Sub-Areas 1–27, based on measures adopted by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (Recommendation GFCM/42/2018/1). On 28 October, a non-paper providing an update on this proposal was published, removing the provision of catch limits after discussion with the Member States. This is in fact in line with the GFCM Recommendation on a multiannual management plan for European eel in the Mediterranean Sea.
Mediterranean eel closures similar to rest of EU
The Mediterranean closures are similar to the proposed three-month closures for Union waters of the ICES area contained in the proposal for fishing opportunities for the North Sea, the North East Atlantic and elsewhere (COM(2020)668). However, the Mediterranean provision goes beyond the rest of the EU as the contracting parties and cooperating non-contracting parties (CPCs) of GFCM agreed to include freshwaters, as well as transitional brackish waters, such as lagoons and estuaries, within the scope of the recommendation on European eel.
The fishing closures shall apply to all EU fishing activities (including targeted, incidental and recreational) catching European eel in Union and international waters of the Mediterranean for three consecutive months. They should be consistent with the temporal migration patterns of European eel in the Member States concerned. We note in the ICES Special Request Advice (2020), that data from landings of silver eel in the Mediterranean indicate that their outward migration pattern may be different from the North and Baltic seas, and hope that Member States will take this into careful consideration when deciding on their closures.
This is the fourth time that the Council will agree on a three-month ban for eel fishing, though the exact provision has changed over the years. It is the second time that the Mediterranean closures are included in the regulation on fishing opportunities for fish stocks in the Mediterranean and Black seas (Regulation 2019/2236; COM(2020)377). The first year after the agreed GFCM multiannual management plan for eel, measures for the Mediterranean were included in the same regulation as the ICES area closures (Regulation 2019/124, Article 42).
The final provisions will be agreed by EU fisheries ministers at the Council on 15–16 December, and will then apply to EU fisheries from 1 January 2021.