2020 fishing opportunities in the Atlantic, North and the Mediterranean Seas: Council secures agreement

The Agriculture and Fisheries Council reached today a political agreement on a regulation concerning the 2020 catch limits for the main commercial fish stocks in the Atlantic, the North Sea and international fisheries in which EU vessels participate.

The quota-setting exercise is never easy and this year it took us several hours of negotiations to get to an agreement. But I am glad to announce that it is a balanced one that reconciles all the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy – environmental and socio-economic sustainability – to the benefit of the fish stocks, fishing sector and the EU citizens at large.

Jari Leppä, Minister for Agriculture and Forestry of Finland and President of the Council

With today’s agreement the Council restated its strong commitment to the objective of the CFP – environmental, economic and social sustainability – the provisions of the multiannual management plans currently in force, and the best available scientific advice.

In light of the difficulties faced by EU fishermen in relation to mixed fisheries in certain areas and the risk of choke species, the Council decided to continue for one year the previously agreed pool mechanism for quota exchanges. Choke species are those that have a low quota that, when exhausted, can cause a vessel to stop fishing even if it still has quota for other species.

In order to address the difficult situation of cod and whiting stocks in the Celtic Sea and cod in Kattegat, the Council decided to introduce remedial measures with the aim of improving the selectivity of fishing gears and reducing bycatches.

Concerning seabass, it was decided to slightly increase the by-catch levels in the Northern areas and grant additional flexibility in their management. The bag limit for seabass recreational fisheries was set to two specimen per fisherman per day under certain conditions, and only from 1 March to 30 November 2020 for Northern seabass.


The Council agreement largely confirmed the initial Commission proposal, which established fishing opportunities in the form of yearly total allowable catches (TACs) and quotas by fish stocks in the different fishing zones. TACs and quotas concern stocks that the EU manages either autonomously or jointly with third countries, for instance with Norway in the North Sea and the Skagerrak, or through agreements reached in the framework of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs).

Based on the scientific advice provided by the International council for the exploration of the sea (ICES), the Commission had proposed for 2020 to:

  1. increase or keep current catch limits for 32 stocks,
  2. reduce it for 40 stocks.

One of the main objectives of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is to ensure high long-term fishing yields (maximum sustainable yield) by 2020 at the latest. In December 2018, 59 stocks were already fished at MSY levels.

Together with MSY, another milestone of the reformed CFP is to reduce unwanted catches through the landing obligation (i.e. the prohibition to discard certain stocks at sea) which entered into full application as from 1 January 2019 for all stocks under catch limits.

The setting of TACs and quotas is an annual management exercise decided upon by the Council in accordance with Article 43(3) of the TFEU.

Next steps

This item will be included, following finalisation by the legal/linguistic experts, in part “A” of the agenda for adoption by a forthcoming Council meeting.

Visit the meeting page