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Fisheries Policy | 1 December 2020

Caution! A TAC-Setter’s Guide to the ‘Precautionary Approach’
Fisheries Policy
Wildlife & habitats
Fisheries & Seafood

PDF | 369 kb

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Caution! A TAC-Setter’s Guide to the ‘Precautionary Approach’

Fisheries management under the European Union’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has to follow the ‘precautionary approach’. This means that uncertainty or a lack of knowledge or data cannot justify delaying or failing to take action to conserve fish stocks and the ecosystems they depend on. Decision-makers need to be more, not less, cautious when information is more limited.

However, different people involved in the CFP, including decision-makers and stakeholders, use the term ‘precautionary’ in different contexts – and not always in the sense set out above.

This briefing explains how decision-makers, including the European Commission, the Council of EU fisheries ministers and individual Member States, should implement the ‘precautionary approach’, particularly in the context of setting Total Allowable Catches (TACs). It also explains related uses of the term ‘precautionary’, including in relation to the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) precautionary approach, and precautionary (PA) reference points used by ICES when developing scientific catch advice.

The briefing provides examples of how these concepts may be misconstrued or misused, and offers guidance as to what ‘applying the precautionary approach’ means in terms of TAC-setting.

Links: This briefing is part of a series of 8 briefings about some technical, but important key aspects of TAC-setting. The briefing series is designed to help decision-makers set sustainable TACs in line with science and the law.

Setting Total Allowable Catches (TACs) in the context of the Landing Obligation

Let's get the numbers right: What proportion of fish stocks are sustainably managed in the EU?

Ask the right question, get the right answer: Scientific advice for bycatch or non-targeted stocks that have zero catch advice

What is the ‘best available scientific advice’ for setting Total Allowable Catches (TACs)?

How (not) to implement the ecosystem-based approach when setting Total Allowable Catches (TACs)

Linking the law to biological reference points used in scientific advice when setting Total Allowable Catches (TACs)

(Lack of) catch documentation under the landing obligation and how exemptions may defeat rather than prove the rule

For an evaluation of the TACs agreed at December Council for 2015-2020 please refer to ClientEarth’s comprehensive report: Taking stock 2020 – are TACs set to achieve MSY?