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THE European Association of Fish Producers Organisations (EAPO) has expressed its concern that the total allowable catch (TAC) for 2011 has been drastically reduced.

They add that the pelagic industry says the cut is not justified and is based on flawed science.

In a statement the EAPO said: “The decision of 19 October by the Coastal States (EU, Norway, Faroe and Iceland) to set a Total Allowable Catch for 2011 on a level of 40,100 tonnes, a reduction of 92% compared to this year, will virtually mean a closure of a directed fishery on this stock.

“EAPO finds this outcome utterly disappointing. The more so because the science on which the coastal states base their decision is fundamentally flawed. Only last year the scientific opinion stated that the stock had increased compared with the year before. This year’s advice went totally the other way.

“The 40,100 tonnes was the most drastic option in the catch option table in the scientific advice. The EU pelagic industry strongly believes that you cannot base such a devastating decision on such an uncertain science.

“It is furthermore very disappointing that the Coastal States made no decision to improve the current weak scientific basis for this stock, although the stakeholders of this stock have repeatedly requested this for the last few years.

“The blue whiting fisheries in the EU is for a very high percentage aimed at human consumption, whereas the other coastal states almost entirely fish for fish meal. The decision to virtually close the fishery also means that the carefully developed market of blue whiting for human consumption over the last decade is now lost for European operators.”

Gerard van Balsfoort, chair of EAPO’s Northern Pelagic Working Group added: “A wiser decision of the Coastal States would have been to choose for the option in the scientific advice that would give a catch level in 2011 of 223,000 tonnes and to organize a cooperation with the pelagic industry to come to a better scientific assessment of the stock.”

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