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Oceans | 1 December 2020

What is the ‘best available scientific advice’ for setting Total Allowable Catches (TACs)?
Fisheries Policy
Wildlife & habitats
Fisheries & Seafood

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

Science is, or at least should be, at the heart of EU fisheries management. The EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) requires decision-makers to establish measures in accordance with the ‘best available scientific advice’. But what does that mean concretely for setting Total Allowable Catches (TACs) that limit catches to sustainable levels?

As ClientEarth’s comprehensive report on TAC-setting shows, TACs are often set at or above the scientifically advised level, and rarely are they set at lower levels that properly factor in ecosystem needs or uncertainty.

This briefing gives an overview of key provisions in the CFP, and explains why the official scientific advice provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) – and within it the official headline advice – constitutes the ‘best available scientific advice’ for the purpose of TAC-setting.

It also highlights why this advice represents the maximum catch level not to be exceeded, rather than a mere target. In many cases TACs need to be set below this level, in order to satisfy three key requirements of the CFP, namely the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) objective, the precautionary approach, and the ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management.

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

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

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?