Council approves fishing opportunities for 2024 in EU and non-EU waters

Following three days of negotiations, fisheries ministers agreed on fishing opportunities in the Atlantic, the North Sea, and in the Mediterranean and the Black Seas for 2024. The political agreement reached by the Council is in line with the goal of ensuring the long-term sustainability of fish stocks, while at the same time protecting the livelihoods of communities that depend on fishing.

For the Atlantic and the North Sea, in the case of eight fish stocks, the decision also concerns catch limits for 2025 and in two cases for 2026 as well. These are known as ‘multiannual total allowable catches (TACs)’. This is based on multiannual advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). The aim of this multiannual approach is to ensure predictability and stability for the industry, and to make the decision-making process more efficient.

Overall, the political agreement reached by the Council includes catch limits, also known as ‘total allowable catches’ (TACs), for over 200 commercial fish stocks.

The political agreement is based on proposals drawn up by the Commission and takes into account the best available scientific advice, while respecting the aims of the common fisheries policy (CFP) and the EU’s multiannual plans for various sea basins.

The political agreement in detail

The stocks concerned by the two proposals are those that the EU manages either on its own, jointly with neighbouring non-EU countries, or via agreements reached in regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs).

Approximately 100 of these stocks in the Atlantic and the North Sea are managed jointly with the United Kingdom.

Following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, fish stocks jointly managed by the EU and the UK are considered shared resources under international law. The Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the two parties sets out the terms under which the EU and the UK determine their respective fishing rights in the Atlantic and the North Sea.

Under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, both parties agreed to hold annual talks, and these were successfully concluded earlier this month. Prior to the meeting, the outcome of the deal was adopted via written procedure.

Bilateral consultations with Norway and trilateral consultations on shared stocks between the EU, the UK and Norway have also been successfully completed ahead of the Council meeting.

The political agreement reached during the Agriculture and Fisheries Council integrates those results into the main decision.

Atlantic and the North Sea

Following positive scientific advice and the improved state of the stocks, ministers agreed to increase the catch limits for the following stocks:

  • megrims (11%) and anglerfish (7%) in Iberian waters
  • plaice in the Kattegat (19%)
  • hake in the southern Bay of Biscay, Iberian waters and waters around the Azores (10%)
  • horse mackerel in Iberian waters (5%)

To safeguard stocks following scientific advice and strike a balance with socioeconomic implications, ministers agreed to reduce catch limits for:

  • whiting in the Bay of Biscay by 41%
  • plaice in Iberian waters by 20%
  • Norway lobster in Portuguese waters and Azores by 20%
  • sole in 8c-e, 9 and 10 by 17%

Given the continued critical state of European eel, the Council decided to continue the six-month closure period for any commercial eel fishing activities, with certain exemptions, and to prohibit recreational fisheries.

Mediterranean and Black Seas

Ministers agreed to reduce fishing efforts for trawlers in the western Mediterranean by 9.5% in order to protect demersal stocks. This is in line with the EU’s legal obligation to attain the maximum sustainable yield for these stocks by 2025.

In addition, ministers agreed to continue the use of the compensation mechanism that was established for the first time for 2022, allocating up to 6% additional days to trawlers eligible that comply with specific requirements, as an incentive to increase the protection of the stock.

The Council additionally agreed to reduce the maximum catch limits for blue and red shrimp in subareas 1, 2, 5, 6 and 7 by 5%, blue and red shrimp in subareas 8, 9, 10 and 11 by 3% and for giant red shrimp in the western Mediterranean Sea in subareas 8, 9, 10 and 11 by 3% compared to 2023.

In the Black Sea, the Council agreed to roll-over the TAC for 2024 in the case of turbot, and to maintain a closure period for turbot fishing from 15 April to 15 June. Additionally, ministers agreed to carry over the unused EU turbot quota from 2022.

Next steps

The regulations will be finalised by the Council’s legal and linguistic experts, following which they will be formally adopted by the Council and published in the Official Journal. The provisions will apply as of 1 January 2024.


The setting of TACs and quotas is an annual management exercise undertaken by the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in December.

Ministers set catch limits for commercial fish stocks for the following year, along with national quotas for each species. This year, for the first time, some stocks are set for two or even three years.

Since 2020, following the entry into force of the multiannual plan for demersal species in the Western Mediterranean, the fishing opportunities in the Mediterranean and the Black Seas have also been discussed at Council level.