Advice and Recommendations

The Pelagic AC provides credible, scientific, and consensus-based advice to inform pelagic fisheries policy, both upon the request of the European Commission and Member States, and on its own initiative. All advice and recommendations are developed and approved by the members of the Pelagic AC. 

Our advice — and responses to it — may be accessed below.

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Joint-Recommendation NWWAC-PelAC Sprat in English Channel (areas 7d and 7e)

The NWWAC and PelAC recommend that the TAC for sprat in the English Channel should not exceed the ICES MSY advice.

The advice mentions the stock structure of sprat populations in the Celtic Seas ecoregion is unknown. The ACs recommend that a genetics stock identification project should be undertaken to better understand the stock structure of the sprat populations in the Celtic Seas ecoregion.

In addition, in the context of improved management of the directed fishery, the PelAC will be examining the possibility of developing a management strategy for sprat in the Celtic Sea ecoregion.

Both ACs suggest that the current sprat management units should be evaluated by ICES.

Gentlemen’s Agreement NWWAC and PelAC on joint work on sprat and greater silver smelt

The North Western Waters Advisory Council and the Pelagic Advisory Council approved a gentlemen’s agreement, establishing a protocol for collaboration on providing advice to the European Commission on sprat and greater silver smelt in ICES areas VI and VII.

As part of the newly agreed NWWAC-PelAC protocol, the PelAC will include the greater silver smelt stock in the advice package to be presented by ICES during the annual PelAC Working Group II meeting in July.

All concerned NWWAC members will be invited to attend the April meeting as observers. During this meeting, discussions on the catch advice of sprat will be held between ICES and PelAC members, and preliminary thoughts on a potential recommendation will be formulated.

2022 Letter NWWAC PelAC Gentlemens Agreement
PelAC contribution to public consultation on review of the CFP

In its response to the review of the CFP consultation, the Pelagic AC highlighted a number of key themes such as the impacts of Brexit. The PelAC underlined the importance of taking changes in relation to Brexit onboard in any review of the current CFP, as it has fundamentally changed the dynamic of the CFP. The PelAC stressed the shortcomings of the regionalization process in the context of pelagic fisheries, and raised existing issues as a consequence of mis-alignment between the CFP and other Union legislations. The PelAC highlighted the importance of progressing the application of the ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management. Finally, the PelAC felt managing all stocks at MSY-level was an example of a CFP objective contributing to positive change on the status of fish stocks.

2022 Consultation Review CFP 2022 Annex 2014 landing obligations
Joint-AC letter on stakeholder engagement in Specialised Fisheries Committee

The Pelagic, Long Distance, North Western Waters, North Sea and Markets Advisory Councils produced a joint-lettter informing the Commission of the set up of the newly formed ‘inter-AC Brexit Forum’, composed of the ACs impacted by Brexit. Through this Forum, the ACs wish to address horizontal issues with the Commission specifically in the context of UK-EU fisheries management. In its recommendation, the Forum has formulated a number of key questions in relation to the setup and operational mode of the Specialised Committee on Fisheries (SCF) moving forward, and sought to establish a formalised framework for consultation on specific topics prior to relevant SCF meetings. The members of the Inter-AC Brexit Forum reiterated their plea for structured stakeholder engagement in SCF proceedings and invited the Commission to actively support our ambitions towards transparent, just and sustainable management of shared resources. The Forum invited the Commission to attend its next meetings on 5 May and 2 June 2022, to contribute to the discussions with details concerning developments in the SCF.

In its response, the Commission supported the establishment of the inter-AC Brexit Forum and provided further detail on the functioning of the SCF in response to the different queries raised by the ACs in the letter. PelAC members were pleased with the quality of the interaction with the Commission in the following Inter-AC Brexit Forum meeting.

The Inter-AC Brexit Forum sent a follow-up to the previous two letters concerning stakeholder engagement in future management and governance post-Brexit, as well as addressing the Commission’s response to these. The Commission’s direct engagement with the Inter-AC Brexit Forum has been particularly welcomed by the members most affected by Brexit and is considered critical for further endeavours to set the course of the Inter-AC Brexit Forum, the establishment of which the Commission services clearly supported. The Forum remains open to establishing a framework for formal consultations on specific topics prior to relevant SCF meetings. As the Forum evolves organically from one meeting to the next, its structure and format are being determined through iterative, consensus-based processes. One of the resolutions of the last meeting related to the scheduling of Forum meetings within one week after every SCF WG meeting to allow for timely transmission of relevant information on SCF procedures through the Commission’s SCF debrief. The Forum invited the Commission to its next meeting in September 2022.

2022 Inter-AC letter to COM on Brexit and SCF Commission response 20 July: letter to COM on SCF
Progressing the ICES assessments for North Sea horse mackerel and boarfish

In this recommendation, the PelAC asked the Commission to support the Pelagic AC by requesting ICES to improve the quality of the data available for the North Sea horse mackerel and boarfish stocks, and to prioritize the transition of these two stocks to stronger ICES stock categories and subsequent full-assessments.

In its response, the Commission mentioned the planned benchmark meeting for the boarfish stock which would look at the available data. It also expressed its willingness to further discuss with ICES on the possibility of reinforcing science on these stocks in line with the suggestions made by the PelAC.

2022 Assessment categories NS horse mackerel and boarfish Commission response
Joint-AC letter on contributions from Advisory Councils in Commission public consultations

In a joint-letter from 10 ACs regarding the process of targeting ACs for public consultations, as well as on the consideration of AC responses by the Commission services, the ACs ask the Commission to:

• Treat contributions from ACs to public consultations with added weight compared to responses from individuals/individual organisations;
• Document AC advice uptake at the end of the consultation process;
• Take working processes of ACs into account in a systematic fashion, i.e. by flagging upcoming consultations as early as possible, by providing translated documents in relevant working languages and by extending timelines for feedback submissions from ACs as appropriate.
• In addition to the questionnaire consultations, engage in active dialogue with ACs through bilateral meetings on relevant policy consultations,
when launching relevant EU consultation questionnaires.

In its response, the Commission confirmed that flexibility in the response format would be given to the ACs, and also confirmed that AC responses to consultations adopted by consensus are treated with added weight. The Commission is aware of the need for advance notice of consultations, and dedicates effort to make this possible. As for direct dialogue, the Commission does its utmost to attend relevant AC meetings but asks ACs to prioritize and send meeting invites with enough notice, noting the strain on the Commission resources.

2022 Weight of ACs advice consultations Commission response
Fisheries Action plan to conserve fisheries resources

In its response to the Commission consultation questionnaire on the Fisheries Action plan, the PelAC made a number of general remarks on the consultation format. The questions formulated in the questionnaire were often so generic that it makes responses from ACs the Pelagic AC very difficult. The PelAC recommended the Commission to reflect on the extent to which targeting broad stakeholder groups such as ACs is useful following this format. Many of the questions also requested submission of factual/scientific evidence to support an opinion. The PelAC believes it would be more appropriate to conduct meta-analyses of work done by different institutions on a common topic. Finally, the PelAC felt the issues raised in the questionnaire to be trivial relative to the wider issue of the sustainable management of pelagic stocks in the Northeast Atlantic, which was not mentioned in the questionnaire at all.

2021 Letter to COM on the consultation on the FAP to conserve fisheries resources
Southern Horse Mackerel management plan

In Autumn 2020, the Pelagic AC convened a Southern horse mackerel Focus Group (SHOM FG) together with the SWWAC and discussed proposed amendments to the agreed LTMS. It was proposed during the meeting that the established target year to reach Fmsy within the strategy – the year 2025 – be amended to a target year of 2022, in order to bring the fishing opportunities based on the LTMS more swiftly in line with those based on the ICES MSY advice. Following a second meeting of the SHOM FG between the PelAC and the SWWAC on the 18th May where this decision was endorsed, the Pelagic AC informed the Commission of this single amendment – to Article 5.1 of the management strategy – which had been agreed on a consensus basis. The PelAC requested the Commission to urgently convey the revised LTMS to ICES so that it could be included for consideration in the WGHANSA meeting on 24th-28th May 2021.

The PelAC was surprised by the response from the Commission, indicating it would stick to ICES top-line advice on the basis of MSY, as its ‘legal basis’. The PelAC feels this is regrettable considering the amount of effort that the PelAC puts in developing management strategies/rebuilding plans, and will seek further clarification moving forward.

2021 Letter to Commission on agreed amendment to SHOM long-term management strategy Commission response Commission response Letter to Commission on clarification for TAC 2022 SHOM recommendation
Stakeholder participation in future fisheries management and governance structures, post-Brexit

In a joint letter co-signed by the Pelagic Ac and seven other Advisory Councils, the vital importance was riased of stakeholder participation in future management and governance structures to be established for partnership working with the UK. The ACs urged the Commission to ensure that stakeholder engagement and advice remain central to all future management and governance structures being developed as the new relationship between the EU and UK takes concrete form, and requested this subject to be included for further discussion as an agenda item at the following inter-AC meeting planned for May 2021.

2021 Letter on stakeholder participation Commission response
North Sea herring TAC calculations & Management Strategy Evaluation for blue whiting

Following the March 2021 Pelagic AC Working Group meetings, the annual meetings where Pelagic reviews and evaluates the final uptake of its TAC recommendations issued the year prior, the PelAC members wished to request clarification from the Commission on how the different Total Allowable Catches (TACs) are calculated for herring in Area 4 and herring in Area 3a.

In addition, in its TAC recommendations for 2021 the PelAC had raised its concerns that the Long-Term Management Strategy (LTMS) for blue whiting may no longer be precautionary – based on concerns shared by ICES in the advice around the impacts of unilateral quota-setting by Coastal States for this stock. The PelAC wished to reinvigorate this issue with the Commission once more and asked for confirmation whether it is willing to pursue an MSE of the blue whiting management plan at the Coastal States level and send this request on to ICES.

2021 NS herring & Blue whiting Management Strategy Evaluation

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