Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki said she would like to see a tougher method applied to setting quotas and fishing days at sea, in order to meet international standards and bring EU fishing limits back to sustainable levels in 2011.
Catch limits are voted upon on an annual basis by EU-27 fisheries ministers and are subject to major haggling between countries.
A Commission paper on 2011 fishing opportunities in EU waters, adopted on 17 May, sets out how the EU executive intends to act on the scientific advice it receives on the state of fish stocks when proposing catch limits and quotas for next year.
The document is intended as a basis for consultation with member states and stakeholders on the method for setting the total allowable catches (TACs).
Commission official Kenneth Patterson said that the EU executive is comparing the current status of different fish stocks with the bloc's international commitments to see whether the situation is getting better or worse.
"Then, based on scientific advice we make the necessary course correction to put things back on track," he added. Such course correction implies phasing out overfishing through TAC adjustments between 2011 and 2015, Patterson said.
The Commission said it will base itself on the following guiding principles when making proposals: environmental sustainability; stability in quotas as far as possible; implementing long-term plans; meeting international commitments; reducing overfishing and rebuilding stocks; and using international scientific advice.
According to the report, some progress has already been made in terms of sustainability. In 2009, 11 stocks met the sustainable catch target compared to only two stocks meeting the target in 2002.
But Patterson said that 60-70% of stocks are still at risk of being depleted to such a level that the incoming stocks of young fish may be smaller than they should be. And there are many stocks for which sustainable catch level cannot be established due to lack of scientific information, he added.