Original publication: October 2015
Authors: IMARES Wageningen UR: Marloes Kraan, Ruben Verkempynck, Nathalie A. Steins
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This document was prepared for the workshop of the PECH Secretariat held on 13 October 2015 in Brussels – “New Technical Measures Framework for The New Common Fisheries Policy” .

The set of documents prepared for the workshop includes the following papers:
I – Lessons from the Past for the Future of Technical Measures ;
II – Technical Measures in the Baltic Sea – An Alternative to Over-Regulation and the Brace-and-Belt Approach ;
III – Technical Measures in the Atlantic and the North Sea – Working with Stakeholders Towards Meaningful Revision ;
IV – Fishing Management Based on Technical Measures – The Need of a New Framework for the Mediterranean Sea

Workshop on a "New Technical Measures Framework for The New Common Fisheries Policy"

Download the Study

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) of the EU has recently been overhauled. In December 2013, the European Parliament and the Council agreed on a comprehensive CFP reform. It is now enshrined in a new legislative framework, the so-called ‘new CFP basic Regulation’ (Regulation (EU) No 1380/2013). As far as the conservation of marine biological resources is concerned, it repeals and replaces the former ‘basic fisheries management framework’, laid down by the Council in 2002 (Regulation (EC) No 2371/2002).

In the follow-up to the CFP reform, the European Commission is gradually issuing new legislative proposals aiming to align the partly outdated EU Regulations from before 2013 with the new CFP. One of the major post-reform projects of the European Commission is the general overhaul of the set of existing rules for technical measures.

The Commission announced a new legislative proposal for a general technical measures Regulation for the late autumn of this year. This new Union Regulation shall replace the old general framework Regulation for technical measures from 1998 (Council Regulation (EC) No 850/98).


The aim of the present study is to provide an in-depth analysis on the existing technical measures (TM) in the Atlantic and the North Sea performing three functions:

(1) review of the main existing TM;
(2) present an assessment and evaluation of
(a) the TM in view of new CFP objectives (elimination of discards and ecosystem management);
(b) the regionalisation aspect of the new CFP and
(c) the simplification of CFP governance; and
(3) conclusions and recommendations.


Technical measures (TM) influence where, when and how marine resources are exploited, and therefore impact fishing activity in many ways. Besides supporting stock and ecosystem management, they can contribute positively to establishing a level playing field. For these reasons, they are considered to be a useful tool for the management of marine resources.

Since the 1980ies the number of TM in the EU have grown exponentially. These TM are aimed at targeting the structure of fishing gears and how to operate these; defining zones and/or periods where fishing can be restricted; specifying measures to reduce the impact of fishing activities on the marine ecosystem; and imposing minimum landing sizes on caught commercial resource. The current set of TM for the Atlantic and the North Sea are, however, not unanimously successful.

The general objective of TM affecting the structure of fishing gears is to avoid catches that are unwanted. These TM tend to focus on mesh sizes. The huge diversity in fisheries has resulted in numerous exceptions to mesh size regulations, provided fishermen comply with the catch composition rules that reflect the specificity and species mix of that fishery. Catch composition rules can be very restrictive for certain fisheries and may induce obligatory discarding. While static gears are also regulated by mesh size and catch composition rules, there are no regulated prescriptions on the deployment of pots, traps, hooks, or other passive gear that are not a net in the North Atlantic and the North Sea.

TM imposing spatial and temporal restrictions on fishing activities are mainly aimed at protecting particular species or for protection of marine habitats. It is difficult to effectively quantify the performance of these measures. While some closures appear to have been beneficial, some are maintained simply because they at least contribute to some extent to decreasing fishing pressure. For some current closures, evaluations suggest they could be more effective if they were adapted to changing patterns in the distribution of stocks and fishing patterns.

TM regulating minimum landing sizes (MLS) are closely related to TM affecting the structure of fishing gears. Many MLS are complemented by common market standards for a certain fisheries, where species are defined in size categories to be adhered to when products are landed. For some species there is a mismatch between MLS and maturity indicators. Increasing the MLS to match maturity size to protect juveniles of target species is ineffective without adjusting the selectivity patterns of the fishing gears accordingly, as these fish would appear in the catches and become prone to discarding.

While the aforementioned TM in general are aimed at regulating the direct operational management of the fisheries in relation to the fish stocks, some include ecosystem management components. These include TM aimed at reducing non-commercial by-catch or protect spawning or nursery grounds. Management measures directly targeted at protecting vulnerable marine habitats or protected, endangered and threatened species are generally taken outside the scope of the Common Fisheries Policy. An evaluation of technical measures as part of ecosystem conservation is outside the scope of this study.

With the introduction of the landing obligation the need to evaluate the TM has become more urgent than ever. TM that force fishers to discard or limit the possibilities to innovate are in direct contrast to the main aim of the landing obligation: creating incentives towards more selective fishing practices. For the landing obligation to be successful, the abolishment of such rules is one of the prerequisites. Compliance with rules that remain after the revision, is a fundamental factor in fostering a real change of TM, for instance towards results based management.

However, more is needed than only a ‘spring cleaning’. Only if the changes to the TM are embedded in a greater shift in European fisheries governance, they will have positive social, economic and ecological outcomes. Real meaningful change requires four key changes. One, it implies a move from centralised governance to regional management. Second, it requires a greater co-management role for stakeholders. Third, it needs a focus on adaptive and results based management that is, a focus on outcome rather than the measures themselves. And finally, it requires that rules are set contextually, fitting the practice of fishing, per fishery, season, area etc.

These more general issues with respect to the various types of TM currently in operation, are also illustrated by the case studies of the Dutch demersal fleet in chapter 4 of this this report. These studies are relevant as an example of how technical measures can be reassessed in the light of the reformed CFP. TM were evaluated by scientists in close cooperation with stakeholders, who have in-depth knowledge of the practice of fishing and whole acceptance of rules and regulation is crucial for the success of TM. In this process many TM were identified that should be revised to increase selectivity, reduce discards and foster innovation. Some existing rules are even regarded as counterproductive to the CFP objective of reducing discards. Tables 3, 4 and 5 provided an assessment of the different TM in relation to a revision due to the landing obligation. A number of these TM also apply to North Sea demersal fisheries by other Member States.

Our literature and case study analysis reaffirms that the current set of TM in the EU are too complex, difficult to understand, control and enforce. With the revision of the CFP and the introduction of the landing obligation, the need for a re-evaluation of EU’s technical measures has become more urgent. The current TM regulations are not effective in preventing catches of unwanted species and in some cases hinder innovations towards more selective gear and management strategies. They should be adapted to the context of specific fisheries with measures devised at regional levels. There is wide stakeholder support (NGO’s, Member States, fishing industry) for fundamental change of the TM. The main question is how to change the TM; which is strongly linked to the question how to organise it (governance).

In this light, the process described in the Dutch case study is an illustration of how policymakers, fishermen and representatives worked jointly on evaluating the technical measures for the North Sea demersal fishery. Nevertheless, the case study should be seen as a theoretical study as success can only be measures after the proposed changes have been introduced. This inn fact applies to any revision of the technical measures before the landing obligation is implemented. This is also why adaptive management is so important as part of the operational implementation of the landing obligation and revised TM. Adaptive management includes monitoring of the effects of the revisions on the catch composition, socio-economics impacts and compliance; it also demands that rules and regulations can be changed swiftly on the basis of the monitoring results. As part of this process, it should be clear how the landing obligation will be implemented in practice and how enforcement and control will be effectuated.

A governance framework of regionalised and results-based management, demands a focus on joint fact finding, joint problem solution and joint responsibilities. This requires a change of culture for all actors; managers, scientists and the industry. The approach taken in the Dutch case study is recommended as a tool to foster an inclusive TM revision process in Europe. Even though time is short and the sense of urgency is high, we recommend a careful stakeholder-oriented process over a fast centralised process. After all, outcomes that can count on stakeholder support and fit the everyday reality of the fisheries will in the end be the best investment in responsible management of our fisheries and marine ecosystem resource.

Link to the full study: http://bit.ly/563-403

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