The annual EU talks on fishing quotas in Brussels have finished overnight with bureaucrats claiming the success of sustainable fishing has led to increases in the amount of stock boats can land.
While challenges remain for some species, George Eustace UK Fisheries Minister secured significant quota increases for fishermen around all parts of the UK including:
- North Sea: Cod +16.5%, Whiting +17%, Anglerfish + 20% and Saithe +53%
- Irish Sea: Haddock +25% and Nephrops (Langoustines) +8.6%
Increases were also delivered in:
- Western Channel: Haddock +7% and Sole +20%
However it’s not all great news for Cornish fishermen as concerns remain for the amount of Cod in the Celtic Sea and Bass pretty much everywhere. Paul Trebilcock, Chief Exec of Cornish Fish Producers Organisation (CFPO) travelled to Brussels to lobby on behalf of the Cornish fleet and sent CS a summary of the quotas (see below). However he said
“The savage cut in Cod (of 38%) will have a major impact on many vessels and contribute to increased discards”
The official DEFRA statement announced:”Challenges remain to help reverse the long-term decline of some fish stocks, with the science showing a cut of 38% on cod was necessary in the South West (Celtic Sea) and new fishing restrictions on commercial net fisheries targeting sea bass. This builds on action taken over the last two years.
Next year, sea bass catches by gill net fishermen will also be limited only to a by catch allowance of 250kg per month – a reduction around 80% on last year while hook and line commercial fishermen saw their allowance cut by around 23%”
Where the latest scientific evidence supported it, the UK Government also lobbied against unnecessary quota cuts proposed by the European Commission, securing the same quota as last year for many species, including Pollack and Anglerfish in the Celtic Sea and Plaice in the Bristol Channel. These important rollovers will provide stability for fishermen who rely on these species.
Speaking after the conclusion of negotiations in Brussels, Fisheries Minister George Eustice said:
To deliver a profitable fishing industry, we must fish sustainably now and in the future. This year we were able to agree further increases in quotas on some valuable species as stocks have recovered, especially in the North Sea.
There have been some challenges especially on stocks like Bass and Cod in the South West where action to curtail catches has been necessary, but we have worked hard to secure an agreement striking the right balance that delivers for both our marine environment and coastal communities.
As we prepare to leave the European Union we have an opportunity to build on progress made and improve the management of fish stocks in our waters, but we will continue to follow the principles of fishing sustainably and ending the wasteful practice of discarding fish.
Other outcomes from the negotiations included securing extra flexibility around where vessels are able to fish. This will remove current constraints around fishing for northern shelf haddock, and provide more choice over fishing grounds, resulting in reduced costs for vessels.
CFPO Statement – Paul Trebilcock
After two long days of talks in Brussels, Fisheries Ministers from across the EU eventually agreed fishing opportunities (quotas) for the year ahead, including those for important stocks in Area VII.
Ahead of the Council and throughout, the CFPO working with the NFFO, liaised closely with DEFRA officials and the UK minister to ensure that scientific, economic and community based arguments were understood and used in an effort to deliver the best possible deal for our members.
Celtic Sea Cod, Haddock and Whiting
The Commission’s line on Cod was very inflexible throughout the Council and despite deploying arguments based around mixed fisheries modelling, a savage cut in Cod (of 38%) will have a major impact on many vessels and contribute to increased discards.
The modest increase in Haddock (7%) was welcome but fell short of the aspiration to better match the TAC with abundance being seen across the majority of fisheries in the South-West.
Monk VII, Megrim VII and Hake VI/VII
The positive outcomes for the economically important stocks of hake (Increase 9%) and Monk VII (rollover TAC) were soured by the dramatic and unnecessary cut in Megrim TAC (25%). The fact that the biomass of this stock is at an historic high and fishing pressure has reduced significantly in recent years, did not stop the Commission sticking to its dogmatic pursuit of MSY within 1 year.
There is good news for sole fishermen in South West, with increases in the Western Channel (20%) and Bristol Channel TAC (8%) and a rollover of the VIIhjk TAC, reflecting the good state of these stocks and the sustainable practices of the fleets catching them. These are important, high value, stocks for South West fishermen.
The 10% cut in this TAC, based on insufficient/poor data, was extremely disappointing. The sustainable gill-net and hand-line fishermen who target this stable economically important stock both inshore and offshore will be bitterly disappointed with this nonsensical cut. There is a possibility that this decision will be reviewed early next year and it needs to be.
Against the background of massive pressure from anglers, greens and poor scientific perception of the stock, the outcome was not as catastrophic as feared.
The bycatch allowance in the trawl fishery from 1% to 3% of total catch, will not eliminate discards but at least is a step in the right direction. Gill-netters have a monthly 250kg landing allowance. Both measures still present potential problems with discards but at least our reasoned arguments have been recognised and generated some movement. Hand-liners have a 10t per year landing allowance.
(There remains a prohibition of landing any bass in the spawning months of February and March for all gears).
Ray in Western Waters
The increase in this TAC (5%) secured is welcome but this result was tarnished by the continuation of specific restrictions on Small Eyed Ray, with heavily restricted landings only aloud from VIIfg. There is much work to be done on Skates and Ray management if we are to avoid more problems this in future.
Although the TACs and Quotas Regulation is adopted by the fisheries ministers of all EU member states, it is important to recognise that the UK Minister agreed to these TACs (and associated regulations) and must share responsibility for the consequence of these decisions, whether these are in the direction of sustainable fisheries, increased discards or unnecessarily hard consequences for fishing communities.
EU-Norway and EU-Faroe negotiations
Ahead of the EU Fisheries Council, fishing negotiations between the EU and Norway and EU and the Faroe Islands concluded.
Fishermen in England and Scotland benefited from the formal acceptance of early agreements with Norway on fishing opportunities in the North Sea. The UK Government secured a quota rise in North Sea cod worth over £4.3 million to the UK – the third successive rise in three years.
Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, and Liam Fox, International Trade Secretary, all held meetings with the Norwegian Foreign Minister, Borge Brende, in London last week.
But answers from the Government to questions submitted by Melanie Onn MP, Member of Parliament for the fishing community of Great Grimsby, revealed that the future of the UK fishing industry and the effects of tariffs on seafood exports were not raised in any of the four meetings with the Norwegian Foreign Minister, who represents one of the largest exporters of fish to Britain.
“Norway trades freely with Europe but has opted out of the Common Fisheries Policy” Ms Onn commented – “I would have thought that the Government would want to discuss how Britain could replicate that outcome from Brexit”.
“Just a week beforehand the Brexit Minister told the House of Commons that the fishing industry was at the forefront of the Government’s considerations, but the fact that it wasn’t raised once in four meetings suggests that’s far from the case.
After everything that was promised during the referendum campaign, the Government can’t now turn simply turn its back and ignore the fishing industry.”