Bioeconomic multistock reference points as a tool for overcoming the drawbacks of the landing obligation
The landing obligation policy was one of the major innovations introduced in the last Common Fisheries Policy reform in Europe. It is foreseen that the policy will affect the use of fishing opportunities and hence the economic performance of the fleets. The problem with fishing opportunities could be solved if single-stock total allowable catches (TACs) could be achieved simultaneously for all the stocks. In this study, we evaluate the economic impact of the landing obligation policy on the Spanish demersal fleet operating in the Iberian Sea region. To generate TAC advice, we used two sets of maximum sustainable yield (MSY) reference points, the single-stock MSY reference points defined by ICES and a set of multistock reference points calculated simultaneously using a bioeconomic optimization model. We found that the impact of the landing obligation is time and fleet dependent and highly influenced by assumptions about fleet dynamics. At fishery level, multistock reference points mitigate the decrease in the net present value generated by the implementation of the landing obligation. However at fleet level, the effect depends on the fleet itself and the period. To ensure the optimum use of fishing opportunities, the landing obligation should be accompanied by a management system that guarantees consistency between single-stock TACs. In this regard, multistock reference points represent an improvement over those currently in use. However, further investigation is necessary to enhance performance both at fleet level and in the long term.