Who is to blame for excess fisheries quotas in EU member states? Politicians or the EU Council

The Common Fisheries Policy is seen as the main regulatory tool for sustainable management of fish stocks within EU Member States. Commercial fish stocks are managed using TACs within fishing areas. The TACs are mean to provide fair access and sustainable long-term exploitation of fish stocks within EU maritime limits. TACs are set for commercial fish stocks based on stock status and scientific recommendations of ICES and STCEF. TACs are split between EU member countries in the form of national quotas. When a quota for specific species is completed, the EU member state has to close that fishery. TACs are set every year for most fish stocks and every two years for deep sea stocks.

A new study on influence of EU member states on setting of fishing quotas in EU Member States shows that even within a progressive bloc of European countries Total Allowable Catches (TAC) are often set higher than scientific recommendations of ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea). Carpenter et al., (2015) compared the TACs set by EU Member States with catch limits recommended by ICES.

“Catch allocations are based on politics rather than science” O’Leary et al., (2011)

Results of the Carpenter et al., (2015) study suggest that:

  1. European Council set TACs above ICES scientific advice by an average of 20% per year, with around 7 out of every 10 TACs exceeding ICES Scientific Advice.
  2. Greater transparency is required to determine what takes place during the closed-door negotiations between EU and its Member States.
  3. EU Member States are overfishing in EU waters by setting quotas above scientific advice.
  4. Only reported catches are used for the scientific analysis and if discards and illegal catches are taken into account, catches could be far higher.
  5. Each EU Member State seeks short-term political gain through higher quotas for its fishing fleets every year rather than transiting to healthy stocks by following scientific advice.

Excess TAC in tonnes by EU Memeber States (2001-2015)

TAC vs ICES advice by species for top 15 species

Read the full report here.

Carpenter, G., Kleinjans, R., Villasante, S., & O’Leary, B.C. (2016) Landing the blame: The influence of EU Member States on quota setting. Marine Policy, 64, 9-15.

EU Common Fisheries Policy

O’Leary, B., Smart, J., Neale, F., Hawkins, J., Newman, S., Milman, S. & , Roberts, C. (2011, 12). Fisheries mismanagement. Mar Pollut Bull 62 (12), 2642–8.


Author: Pramod Ganapathiraju

Dr Pramod is Fisheries Consultant with extensive experience working with Governments, Researchers, NGOs and coastal fishing communities throughout the Asia and Pacific Regions, Africa, Caribbean, USA and Canada. He has published numerous articles in a range of peer-reviewed journals, books, drafted MSC Pre-Assessments and NGO reports. He has worked extensively on Illegal fishing and Monitoring Control & Surveillance projects with a focus on compliance and enforcement worldwide. With more than 18 years of global experience he is currently working on projects for various clients evaluating fisheries compliance, developing MCS operational procedures and estimating illegal fishing in several countries.Consulting and research experience spans more than 18 countries in Southeast Asia (India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Sri Lanka etc.), Western Pacific (Indonesia, Philippines), West Africa, Caribbean and North America. His consulting and research work is focused towards finding policy solutions to fisheries management issues, improving traceability, catch certification, fisheries governance and analyzing risks associated with illegal fishing products in the Global Supply Chains.

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