Multiannual plan for small pelagic fisheries in the Adriatic Sea

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EESC opinion: Multiannual plan for small pelagic fisheries in the Adriatic Sea

Background

The Adriatic Sea is an important sub-area within the Mediterranean, accounting for around one third of the total landings value. Small pelagic species (which swim near the surface) are anchovy, sardine, mackerel and horse mackerel.

The objectives of the multiannual plan are to reach and maintain the maximum sustainable yield for the stocks concerned, expressed as fishing mortality ranges and in tonnes of spawning stock biomass. Targets have been included for anchovy and sardine as advised by the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF).

Relevant opinions

Key points

The EESC agrees with the need to act to protect stocks of small pelagic species that are distressed due to over-exploitation, and supports the overall aim of urgently implementing a sustainable fisheries system and achieving maximum sustainable yield.

The Committee supports the Commission's decision to opt for a regulation as the legislative instrument for introducing a multiannual plan to protect stocks of small pelagics in order to standardise the rules in force and strengthen governance processes.

While agreeing with the environmental protection and biodiversity objectives, the EESC considers that the Commission's proposal is incomplete and contradictory in many areas. The management model based on the Council setting annual fishing possibilities cannot be brought into line with the biological characteristics of small Adriatic pelagics and the mix of species it contains, the types of vessel and gear (small-scale fisheries) or the number and size of ports. For all these reasons, the Committee considers that the MEDAC proposal to step up measures concerning fishing efforts via a "traffic light" approach is best suited in terms of both substance and method, as it stems from broad agreement by organised civil society as a whole.

The Committee considers that the MSY objective should be met within a reasonable timescale. The deadline of 31 December 2020 does not appear feasible. This proposal is based on an awareness of the natural repopulation times of small pelagic fish stocks and for control authorities, businesses and workers to adjust to the new legislative provisions (especially in the event that these are drastically amended by a shift from effort to quotas). Further, the EESC considers that the possible use of safeguard clauses is not a valid option due to the excessive impact they would have in social and economic terms.