This report assesses the progress made to date towards ending overfishing in the EU 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 2019 at the yearly December Council meetings. On this basis, it identifies a number of key issues which the Commission and the Council, as well as individual Member States, will need to address as a priority to meet the 2020 MSY deadline and allow all stocks to recover in line with the CFP's requirements. In particular, this report sets out to:
- Assess the extent to which the proposed and agreed TACs follow the underlying scientific advice, and to which the TACs agreed by EU ministers follow those proposed by the Commission, and highlight any trends or patterns regarding areas where progress is still lacking (see section 4);
- Evaluate which Member States have demonstrably pushed for higher than scientifically advised TACs throughout the December Council processes in 2016, 2017 and 2018; and which arguments and evidence they have brought forward to justify this (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 2020 and beyond are fully in line with the CFP's objectives and requirements (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 been very limited, with more than half of the TACs assessed still exceeding advice for 2019.
- The Commission and the Council have followed advice less consistently for data-limited stocks subject to precautionary rather than MSY-based advice, even though the CFP’s MSY objective applies to all harvested stocks.
- Certain Member States have been more vocal than others in pushing for higher than scientifically advised TACs. Vocal Member States include France, Ireland, Spain, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Belgium and Denmark, whereas the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden have remained mostly quiet throughout the December Council processes in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Nevertheless, all of these Member States have received shares of TACs exceeding scientific advice, meaning they are all to blame for unsustainable TACs.
EU decision-makers have so far failed to beat the 2020 deadline, but it is not too late to meet it by setting sustainable TACs in line with scientific advice and the legal requirements in 2019. This report provides some key pointers to help the Commission, the Member States and the Council as a whole to focus their attention in this final push towards ending overfishing, and to enable Members of the European Parliament to get involved in this crucial phase.