Council Regulation (EU) 2021/703 of 26 April 2021 amending Regulations (EU) 2021/91 and (EU) 2021/92 as regards certain fishing opportunities for 2021 in Union and non-Union waters

Date of Signature26 April 2021
Published date29 April 2021
Official Gazette PublicationOfficial Journal of the European Union, L 146, 29 April 2021
29.4.2021 EN Official Journal of the European Union L 146/1


of 26 April 2021

amending Regulations (EU) 2021/91 and (EU) 2021/92 as regards certain fishing opportunities for 2021 in Union and non-Union waters


Having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and in particular Article 43(3) thereof,

Having regard to the proposal from the European Commission,


(1) Council Regulation (EU) 2021/91 (1) establishes, for the years 2021 and 2022, the fishing opportunities for Union fishing vessels for certain deep-sea fish stocks. Council Regulation (EU) 2021/92 (2) fixes for 2021 the fishing opportunities for certain fish stocks and groups of fish stocks applicable in Union waters and, for Union fishing vessels, in certain non-Union waters.
(2) The Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community, of the one part, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, of the other part (3) (‘the Trade and Cooperation Agreement’) applies provisionally from 1 January 2021.
(3) The fishing opportunities in Regulations (EU) 2021/91 and (EU) 2021/92 for stocks shared with certain third countries are provisional and in quantitative terms limited to a three-month rollover based on Council Regulations (EU) 2020/123 (4) and (EU) 2018/2025 (5). In a very limited number of cases, a different methodology was used for stocks that are predominantly fished at the beginning of the year or where scientific advice required severe reductions in fishing opportunities.
(4) In accordance with Article 499(2) of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, the provisional total allowable catches (TACs) aim to ensure the continuation of sustainable Union fishing activities until the consultations between the Union and the United Kingdom pursuant to Article 498 of that Agreement are concluded and implemented in the Union legal order. They were set at levels consistent with what is allowed under Article 499 of that Agreement.
(5) The consultations between the Union and the United Kingdom are still ongoing. Therefore, Regulations (EU) 2021/91 and (EU) 2021/92 need to be amended in order to extend provisional unilateral Union TACs in order to create legal certainty for the Union operators and to ensure the continuation of sustainable fishing activities until those consultations are concluded in compliance with the Union legal framework and the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
(6) This approach is based on Article 499(2) of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which provides that, if a stock listed in Annex 35 to that Agreement or in Tables A and B of Annex 36 to that Agreement remains without an agreed TAC, each Party is to set a provisional TAC corresponding to the level advised by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), applying from 1 January. Pursuant to Article 499(3) to (5) of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, and by way of derogation from paragraph 2 of that Article, the TACs for special stocks shall be set in accordance with the guidelines to be adopted by the Specialised Committee on Fisheries by 1 July 2021.
(7) Therefore, as a general approach, the provisional fishing opportunities for the Union should be based on the ICES advice for 2021, and, for deep-sea stocks, also for 2022, when available. They should correspond to the Union share agreed under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
(8) As a general approach, the provisional TACs should be extended until 31 July 2021 and should correspond to a ratio of seven twelfths or 58,3 % of the annual catch level advised by ICES for 2021 and, for deep-sea stocks, also for 2022. In certain cases, they should correspond to that ratio of the Union position in the ongoing consultations with the United Kingdom as defined in the Council Decision of 5 March 2021 establishing the position to be taken on behalf of the Union in the consultations with the United Kingdom and as further specified in accordance with that Decision.
(9) This level is considered in principle to be sufficient for the Union fishing vessels at least until 31 July 2021, which is one month after the date by which the guidelines for special stocks need to be agreed with the United Kingdom.
(10) For a limited number of stocks, the provisional TACs should correspond to a higher ratio of the advised annual catch level in order to take into account the seasonality of fishing activities for those stocks.
(11) Without prejudice to, and taking into account the absence of, the guidelines for special stocks, the TACs for those stocks are consistent with Article 499 of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
(12) The Union, on the one hand, and the Government of Greenland and the Government of Denmark, on the other hand, are expected to conclude a sustainable fisheries partnership agreement, as the previous agreement expired on 31 December 2020. The Council should therefore fix fishing opportunities resulting from that agreement, taking into account exchanges of fishing opportunities with third countries. Those fishing opportunities should be effective from the date of provisional application of that agreement.
(13) Member States should make use of any applicable inter-area, inter-species and inter-annual flexibilities in a way which ensures that the overall level of Union catches in 2021 does not exceed the Union share of the maximum TAC level which the Union may set under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
(14) Taking into account the ratio that is applied, the quota uptake, the conditions for the use of flexibilities, as well as other conditions stipulated in existing Union legislation, in accordance with Article 499(7) of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, the provisional TACs respect the Union shares agreed under that Agreement, as set out in Annexes 35 and 36 thereto.
(15) The provisional TACs also comply with the applicable Union legal framework, in particular Articles 4, 5(3) and 8 of Regulation (EU) 2019/472 of the European Parliament and of the Council (6) and Articles 4, 5(3) and 7 of Regulation (EU) 2018/973 of the European Parliament and of the Council (7). They are based on the level advised by ICES, while taking into account the particular situation of stocks caught in a mixed fishery that may be affected by ‘choke’ situations, having regard to ICES advice on mixed fisheries and on unavoidable by-catches.
(16) There are certain stocks for which ICES has issued scientific advice for no catches. If TACs for those stocks are established at the level indicated in the scientific advice, the obligation to land all catches, including by-catches from those stocks, in mixed fisheries would lead to the phenomenon of ‘choke species’. In order to strike the right balance between continuing fisheries in view of the potentially severe socio-economic implications and the need to achieve a good biological status for those stocks, taking into account the difficulty of fishing all stocks in a mixed fishery at maximum sustainable yield (MSY) at the same time, it is appropriate to establish specific TACs for by-catches for those stocks. The level of those TACs should be such that mortality for those stocks is decreased and that it provides incentives for improvements in selectivity and avoidance of catches of those stocks. In order to reduce catches of the stocks for which by-catch TACs are set, fishing opportunities for the fisheries in which fish from those stocks are caught should be set at levels that help the biomass of vulnerable stocks to recover to sustainable levels.
(17) These fishing opportunities should in no circumstances prejudge the establishment of the fishing opportunities in accordance with the outcome of the consultations with the United Kingdom, the guidelines on special stocks to be agreed with the United Kingdom pursuant to Article 499(5) of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement and the Union legal framework.
(18) According to scientific advice, the spawning-stock biomass of European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax) in the Celtic Sea, the Channel, the Irish Sea and the southern North Sea (ICES divisions 4b, 4c, 7a, and 7d to 7h) has been declining since 2009 and is currently below MSY Btrigger and just above Blim. Due to the measures taken by the Union, the fishing mortality has decreased and is currently below FMSY. However, recruitment is low, fluctuating without trend since 2008. Therefore, the catch limits should be continued, while ensuring that the target fishing mortality for this stock is in line with MSY.
(19) In Regulation (EU) 2021/92, the TAC for sandeels in ICES divisions 2a and 3a and in ICES subarea 4 was set at zero pending the publication of the relevant scientific advice, provided by ICES, which became available on 25 February 2021. The fishery for sandeels, which are a short-lived species, starts on 1 April, shortly after the publication of the scientific advice.
(20) The catch limits for sandeels in ICES divisions 2a and 3a and in ICES subarea 4 should be amended in line with the latest scientific advice from ICES.
(21) Regulation (EU) 2021/92 establishes preliminary fishing opportunities for the first quarter of 2021. Furthermore, Article 14 of that Regulation establishes a prohibition from 1 January to 31 March 2021 for vessels fishing for sandeels using certain gears in ICES divisions 2a and 3a and in ICES subarea 4. As this Regulation establishes fishing opportunities for the entire fishing year, that prohibition should also cover the period from 1 August to 31

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