Catch limits for the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea and the North-East Atlantic (including the North Sea) are set annually by fisheries ministers following proposals by the Commission in the autumn. Quotas for deep-sea species are set every two years.
The Commissioner would like to see a tougher method applied to setting quotas and days at sea, in order to meet international standards. While launching the report the Mrs Damanaki said, "I want to be clear that the quota levels set must respect all the European Union's commitments to sustainability, our commitments to nearby States, and the commitments we have made under long-term plans."
EU Member States agreed in 2002 that fish stocks should only be exploited to their maximum sustainable level. This policy is having results with 11 stocks meeting this target.
Annually, the Commission drafts a report on fishing stocks to explain to the fishing industry the rules that will be used to set quotas. Common rules ensure that all fleets are treated equally and fairly. The EU fisheries policy must be guided by the following parameters; environmental sustainability; stability in quotas when possible; respect for international commitments; the reduction in over-fishing and the rebuilding of stocks; usage of international consensus scientific advice. Overall the Commission will practice caution when there is uncertainty.
The Commission relies on scientific advice from two international expert committees when proposing fish quotas: the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, based in Copenhagen and the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries. This advice will be available in June/July.
The Commission will now send the report to the fishing industry and Member State Governments for consultation and examination. After taking account of their responses a final strategy proposal will be made.