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Fishing in the north-east Atlantic - rules on deep-sea stocks and international waters

Fishing in the north-east Atlantic - rules on deep-sea stocks and international waters



Regulation (EU) 2016/2336 — rules protecting deep-sea fishing stocks


  • It seeks to ensure the sustainable exploitation of deep-sea stocks while reducing the environmental impact of these fisheries and improving the information base for scientific assessment through data collection.
  • It repeals and replaces Regulation (EC) No 2347/2002, which set the rules on managing European Union (EU) fishing opportunities (total allowable catch* and fishing effort management).


  • 2 types of fishing authorisation are introduced for:
    • vessels that land more than 8 % of deep-sea species in any fishing trip and at least 10 tonnes in the calendar year concerned; and
    • vessels that have by-catches* of deep-sea species, which are subject to a flexibility of 15 % beyond 10 tonnes.
  • Fishing capacity is capped on the basis of the capacity of vessels that landed more than 10 tonnes of deep-sea species in 2009-2011.
  • Targeted deep-sea fisheries are confined to areas (known as the ‘footprint area’) where deep-sea fishing occurred in 2009-2011, i.e. before the European Commission proposal was submitted.
  • EU countries may submit to the Commission on behalf of their fishing fleets a request to conduct exploratory fishing outside the footprint area. Requests must be accompanied by an impact assessment and indicate the estimated duration of exploratory fisheries and the estimated number of vessels taking part and their capacity. The Commission sets the conditions for such fishing by means of implementing acts. The duration of exploratory fishing is limited to a maximum of 1 year (renewable once).
  • Vessels must report encounters* with vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs)* below a depth of 400 metres and move to an alternative area at least 5 nautical miles away from the area of encounter.
  • Deep-sea fishing with bottom trawls (i.e. gear designed to catch species on or near the bottom of the sea) below 800 metres from the water surface is banned.
  • Based on the outcome of an impact assessment and reported encounters, the Commission, by means of implementing acts and on the basis of scientific advice, can close areas with VMEs for deep-sea fishing with bottom gears.
  • The regulation introduces stricter rules including:
    • restrictions on transhipment*,
    • real-time reporting on the use of quota,
    • follow-up of misreported catches,
    • specific control and inspection programmes,
    • higher multiplication factor for overfishing, and
    • the possibility for the Commission to adopt emergency measures, etc.
  • Quantities exceeding 100 kg of deep-sea species may only be landed in designated ports. The intention to land them must be notified at least 4 hours in advance and 1 hour in advance for vessels of not more than 12 metres.
  • A fishing authorisation can be withdrawn for at least 2 months in the event of non-compliance with its conditions regarding:
    • use of inappropriate fishing gear,
    • areas of operation and catch limits,
    • failure to take an observer on board.
  • It also sets out rules on data collection standards and requirements for observer coverage to ensure the collection of relevant, timely and accurate data on catches and by-catches of deep-sea species. Data should also be collected on encounters with VMEs of at least 20% for targeting vessels using bottom trawls and bottom-set gillnets and 10% coverage for other vessels. This coverage may be adapted by the Commission on the basis of scientific advice.
  • The above measures concern the EU waters and certain areas covered by the Fishery Committee for the Eastern Central Atlantic where EU vessels fish. In the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) area, the existing rules on fishing permits, designated ports and data collection continue to apply, as well as the increased observer coverage of 20 %.
  • The regulation’s impact will be evaluated 4 years after its entry into force to determine the extent to which its objectives have been achieved.


It has applied since 12 January 2017.


  • The EU’s common fisheries policy was reformed and a new basic regulation (Regulation (EU) No 1380/2013) entered into force on 1 January 2014 and will cover the period up to 2020. Among other things, it introduced a landing obligation as well as an obligation for all stocks in EU waters to be managed sustainably.
  • Deep-sea fishing in the north-east Atlantic is carried out both in EU waters and in international waters governed by agreements within the NEAFC. The economy of a number of fishing communities depends, to a certain extent, on deep-sea fisheries. This fishing is dominated by traditional coastal fleets and large nomadic trawlers and accounts for about 1 % of landings from the north-east Atlantic. Due to depleted stocks, both catches and jobs in the fishing communities concerned have declined.


Total allowable catch: the catch limit set for a given fishery.

By-catch: unwanted fish and marine species caught unintentionally.

Encounter: catches of such quantities of VME indicator species that are above the threshold levels.

Vulnerable marine ecosystem (VME): marine ecosystems which risk being damaged because of their physical and functional fragility.

Transhipment: the transfer of a catch from a smaller fishing boat to a larger one which then incorporates it into a larger batch for shipment.


Regulation (EU) 2016/2336 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 December 2016 establishing specific conditions for fishing for deep-sea stocks in the north-east Atlantic and provisions for fishing in international waters of the north-east Atlantic and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 2347/2002 (OJ L 354, 23.12.2016, pp. 1-19)


Council Regulation (EU) No 1367/2014 of 15 December 2014 fixing for 2015 and 2016 the fishing opportunities for Union fishing vessels for certain deep-sea fish stocks (OJ L 366, 20.12.2014, pp. 1-14).

Successive amendments to Regulation (EU) No 1367/2014 have been incorporated in to the original document. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

Council Regulation (EU) 2016/72 of 22 January 2016 fixing for 2016 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, and amending Regulation (EU) 2015/104 (OJ L 22, 28.1.2016, pp. 1-165)

See consolidated version

Council Regulation (EU) 2016/2285 of 12 December 2016 fixing for 2017 and 2018 the fishing opportunities for Union fishing vessels for certain deep-sea fish stocks and amending Council Regulation (EU) 2016/72 (OJ L 344, 17.12.2016, pp. 32–45)

last update 23.02.2017