Taking stock 2021 - are TACs set to achieve MSY?
This report, an update of the previous version published in 2020, assesses the progress made to date towards ending overfishing in the EU and the UK by 2020 at the latest, as agreed in the last reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) in 2013. The core analysis presented focuses on a subset of the Total Allowable Catches (TACs) agreed for the years 2015 to 2021 at the yearly December Council meetings, and for 2021 for the first time also as part of the annual TAC negotiations between the EU and the UK, following the UK's departure from the EU.
On this basis, it identifies a number of key issues which the Commission, the Council, as well as individual Member States and the UK, will need to address as a priority to set TACs for 2022 and beyond in line with science and the law, including the CFP, the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) between the EU and the UK, and the UK's fisheries legislation, and to allow all stocks to recover in line with the legal requirements. In particular, this report sets out to:
- Assess the extent to which the agreed TACs follow the underlying scientific advice, and highlight any trends or patterns regarding issues where progress is still lacking, both for all stocks covered by the report overall, and split into EU only and EU/UK shared stocks (see section 4);
- Summarise what we know about which topics the EU and UK appear to have been more or less environmentally progressive on throughout the negotiations for 2021 shared TACs (see section 5);
- Make recommendations for how decision-makers should address the outstanding issues identified by this report in order to ensure that their TAC decisions for 2022 and beyond are fully in line with the objectives and requirements of the CFP, the TCA and UK law (see key recommendations on p. 6 and at the end of sections 4 and 5).
Key findings include the following:
- Progress since 2015 towards setting TACs in line with scientific advice has continued in 2021 with regards to most assessed metrics, but overall has been insufficient, with more than 40% of the assessed TACs still exceeding advice for 2021.
- Despite some limited progress in more recent years, the EU and the UK have continued to follow advice less consistently for data-limited stocks subject to precautionary rather than MSY-based advice, even though the legal MSY objective applies to all harvested stocks.
- The UK's proactive inclusion of NGOs in its delegation to the plenary sessions of the EU/UK TAC negotiations throughout 2021 represents an important step on the journey towards improved transparency of the decision-making process. However, documentation of and access to the actual negotiations remains very limited, and many questions around how the new dynamic between the EU and the UK will evolve, including how the Specialised Committee on Fisheries established under the TCA will operate in practise and how stakeholders will be engaged in relevant processes, remain unanswered so far.
- While the UK appears to have been more environmentally progressive on certain issues, such as factoring ecosystem needs like food supply for seabirds into the TAC-setting for forage fish like sandeel, it has still pushed for concerning approaches, such as the rollover of unsustainable bycatch TACs for stocks with scientific zero-catch advice, and an increased inter-area flexibility into the West of Scotland, posing risks for vulnerable bycatch stocks in the area, like West of Scotland cod.
- EU decision-makers (at that point still including the UK) have failed to meet the 2020 deadline to end overfishing, and must do better going forward by setting sustainable TACs in line with science and the law for 2022 and beyond.
This report provides some key pointers to help the Commission, the Member States, the Council as a whole and the UK to focus their attention in this overdue push towards ending overfishing. Given that the majority of stocks previously falling under the December Council process are now shared between the EU and the UK, the recommendations presented in the report are also particularly relevant for the ongoing TAC negotiations between the EU and the UK.
Taking stock 2021 – are TACs set to achieve MSY? – Annex II
Taking stock 2021 – are TACs set to achieve MSY? – Annex III
Taking stock 2020 – are TACs set to achieve MSY?
Note that a couple of small errors in the present report were corrected when updating the report for 2022, however the analysis results and findings remain unchanged.