For millennia, humans have taken fish from the sea. Going to sea, putting one’s life at the mercy of the elements, was often a dangerous undertaking. But fishing was also – and continues to be – a deeply satisfying occupation and a source of pride.
To our ancestors, life at sea was bountiful. Fish was an abundant resource that was there for the taking. Today, we are all aware that this no longer holds true. The pressure on fish stocks is increasing. Sustainable fishing has become a matter of survival – not just for dwindling fish stocks, but for fishermen as well.
In the European Union, this link between the ecological health of fish stocks and the economic health of fishing communities is well established. Our common fisheries policy puts sustainability front and centre. This means using the best available scientific advice to set catch limits at responsible levels – today, more stocks are being fished at sustainable levels than ever before. It means working with researchers and fishermen to phase out harmful practices such as discarding. And it means developing new environmentally-friendly technologies and fishing practices that make the EU’s fishing industry more innovative and, ultimately, more competitive as well.
State of stocks North-East Atlantic and adjacent waters
The European Union has agreed that, by 2020 at the latest, all fish stocks should be exploited at sustainable levels. In practice this means taking the highest possible amount of catches from the sea without affecting the long-term productivity of
the stocks. This is known as the maximum sustainable yield (MSY).
In the North-East Atlantic and adjacent waters (North Sea, Baltic Sea, Skagerrak, Kattegat, West of Scotland Sea, Irish Sea and Celtic Sea), EU fisheries ministers set overall catch limits based on scientific advice. These total allowable catches (TACs) are then divided into national quotas, which set limits on the amount of fish that can be caught.