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Quotas and total allowable catch (TAC), have been instrumental in fishery recovery since their inception by the EU in 1976 and are a major point within the Common Fisheries Policy. The purpose of these quotas are to limit the weight of catch of particular species that are permitted to be taken from designated waters. For example, in Ireland, in 2016, the national TAC for cod was 880 tonnes (www1). This procedure is considered to be the corner stone of fisheries conservation, and encompasses equipment usage, time spent fishing, and fishing area restrictions (Karagiannakos, 1996), and are updated annually based on the findings of Scientific and Technical Committee for Fisheries, as part of Article 12 of EU regulation 170/83 (Council of the European Communities Regulation, 1986). The quotas themselves are based on 3 factors that must be taken into account for each member state, including Ireland. These factors are:

  • Traditional Fishing Practices of the Community Fleet
  • Certain preferences (referred to as “The Hague preferences”) are to be applied to fishermen in areas where there is limited alternative forms of employment.
  • The financial losses of Member State fishing vessels after the introduction of Economic Exclusive Zones (EEZ – a 200 nautical mile area surrounding a country’s coastline, to which said country has exclusive rights to all marine resources within (UN, 1986) by the United Nations.

Marine Institute infograph showing the processes by which TAC are determined (WWW2)

If a quota for a particular species is reached in a particular area before the year has ended, this area is “closed” to fishing, until the new quota for that area has been established for the following year. From a biological standpoint, these quotas and closures, can allow fish stocks the time to replenish their numbers to higher levels, but economically they can cost thousands of euro annually to the income of those who rely upon these species.

On December 14th, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Environment, Michael Creed, announced that following two days of intensive negotiations at the annual Fisheries Council in Brussels, Mr. Creed secured 233,500 tonnes of quotas worth an estimated €280 million for Irish fishermen (WW4, WW3). This sees a general increase of 6% on 2016 quotas however it will also include a reduction in the fishing of Cod, Pollock and Megrim populations.


Photo Credit: Irish Examiner

The specific quota details negotiated by Minister Creed include (WW4):

  • For the South and West coasts and the Irish Sea, a 9% increase in the €74 million prawn fishery which benefits the ports of Clogherhead, Howth, Union Hall, Castletownbere, Dingle and Ros a Mhil.
  • For the South West, a 9% increase in hake, reversal of cuts proposed for monkfish – important for the southern ports of Castletownbere and Dingle.
  • For the Celtic Sea fisheries: 21% increase in whiting (from a possible 27% cut); 7 % increase in haddock, 15% cut in cod (reduced from the 68% proposed cut).
  • For the Irish Sea, a 25% increase in haddock; retention of cod and sole quotas.
  • In the North West, a 20% increase in monkfish quota; a 9% increase for the megrim quota, a near doubling of the Rockall haddock quota and no change in whiting benefiting the ports of Greencastle and Killybegs.
  • Cuts in line with scientific advice were applied to haddock in the North West and megrim in the Celtic Sea.

Negotiations also see a considerable reversal of previous recommendations to cut fishing quotas on certain species ( a -68% cut on cod, a -27% cut in whiting and 9% cut in the prawn quota). These estimates were reconsidered based on the application of the core principles of the Hague Preferences.

Seán  and Orla-Peach


Karagiannakos, A. (1996). Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and quota management system in the European Union. Marine Policy, 20(3), 235–248.

WWW1 – Sea Fisheries Protection Authority.

WWW2 – Marine Institute.

WWW3 – Press Release Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, October 2016.

WWW4 – Press Release Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, December 2016.