Inter-species quota flexibility - Exploring a new management tool in European Common Fisheries Policy
Inter-species quota flexibility (IQF) is a new management tool made available to fishery managers in the reformed European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) launched in 2013. IQF regulates a limited transfer between stockspecific total allowable catches (TAC), the main measure of stock conservation in CFP set in accordance with precautionary or, where possible, analytically estimated levels of maximum sustainable yield (MSY). IQF is intended to mitigate the various potential conflicts in the management of multi-species fisheries resulting from stricter catch limitations, which, in turn, are due to the newly-introduced landing obligation for all catches of TAC-regulated stocks. In this paper, the management implications of inter-species flexibility are evaluated by modelling various scenarios of individual and multiple multi-species fisheries exploiting virtual stocks of different sizes and productivity. The results reveal that IQF is rather ineffectual if sustainable stock-specific management goals are similar in terms of exploitation rate. However, if these goals are modified in response to potential ecological conservation needs or market considerations – which would reflect reality more closely – IQF may offer a frequently applicable and effective tool. Simulations carried out in this study demonstrate that IQF may support the use of quotas by increasing fishing opportunities of by-catch species, which are then subtracted from the target stock allowances. However, multiple and jointly managed multi-species fisheries frequently appear limited due to reduced fishing opportunities of target stocks, which may prevent the progressive application of IQF. As such, IQF is helpful for certain specific fisheries management, rather than as a tool for broader management approaches jointly applied to different fishing strategies. It is concluded that the application of IQF may undermine the politically-agreed and fixed quota-sharing rule among European member states (i.e. the “relative stability”) and also lacks a reference to FMSY; i.e., it remains to be clarified whether the application of IQF would result in tolerable levels of short term overfishing of by-catch stocks with regard to MSY.