The Council made an important step forward on 22 October 2012, when it reached a political agreement on the fishing opportunities for 2013 for certain stocks in the Baltic Sea. Member states agreed on more ambitious cuts in total allowable catches (TACs) for cod and fixed the TACs for other stocks.
"An important factor in this agreement has been the constructive spirit shown in the preparatory bodies in the Council, working closely with the countries most directly involved and the Commission. That is something which should be an example for future negotiations," said the President of the Council, Minister Aletraris from Cyprus.
The measures adopted cover the maximum quantities of fish which can be caught for each species, the so-called total allowable catches (TACs), and their distribution between member states (quotas), as well as the limitation of fishing efforts in terms of number of days at sea.
The rules aim to manage the fisheries resources in an environmentally and economically sustainable way. The objective is to ensure conservation of stocks and at the same time guarantee the livelihood of the fishing industry.
The catch limits for EU vessels in the Baltic Sea concern five species: herring, cod, plaice, salmon and sprat. Stocks are managed so as to reach Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) levels, that is the optimal catch that can be taken from a fishing stock year after year without endangering its capacity to regenerate for the future. Catches are reduced progressively to long-term sustainable levels to avoid damaging the industry.
The Commission's proposals for TACs and quotas are based on available scientific advice. This scientific advice indicates that the number of stocks at MSY level in the Baltic Sea might be increasing and that the cuts in TACs in previous years have been effective.
The TAC adopted for the cod stock in the Western Baltic is at a lower level than that initially proposed by the Commission, with a view to achieving sustainable levels sooner than envisaged in the management plan. Thus, the Council endorsed a reduction of the TACs in the Eastern Baltic of 9%.
For herring (Clupea harengus), it was decided to significantly increase the TAC for the Western Baltic (+ 23%) and the Eastern Baltic (+ 15%) in view of the marked improvement in stock levels. In addition, the current TACs for the Gulf of Bothnia and Gulf of Riga have been maintained.
For sprat (Sprattus sprattus), an increase of 11% in the TACs was agreed.
With the decision reached, three of the Baltic stocks will continue to be fished at MSY levels (Western herring, Eastern cod, sprat) while three other stocks continue their progress towards reaching that target by 2015 (Central herring, Gulf of Riga herring, Gulf of Bothnia herring).
For Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), a reduction was agreed except for one subdivision for which a rollover (renewal of last years TAC) was agreed; for plaice (Pleuronectes platessa), ministers endorsed the Commission's proposal of a TAC increase of 18%.
Under the Lisbon Treaty, the Council alone adopts measures on the fixing and allocation of fishing opportunities in the framework of the common fisheries policy.