Catch limits apply to fish species subject to EU quotas and affect vessels under 10 metres and those not members of Fish Producer Organisations.
In 2015 the MMO is setting these monthly for the majority of fish stocks, rather than quarterly as has happened in previous years. Catch limits for January 2015 are also based on the actual EU quota allocated to English under ten metre vessels, rather than including additional quota the MMO predicts it might bring in through swaps with other countries, as has happened in the past.
Feedback the MMO has received is that industry wants fisheries to be open for the full year and our first priority is ensuring this. This inevitably involves compromising freeing up quota for fishermen when they need it and ensuring we do not reach EU quota limits before year end. When setting catch limits for a stock the MMO must also balance the needs of a large number of vessels who fish for them with different methods and at different times of the year.
The MMO has explained its approach to certain stocks for 2015 directly with fisheries representatives who have contacted them. At their request it is looking to give the highest possible monthly catch limits during 2015, however these will not be to the levels of 2014.
Vessels do have the ability to lease quota from producer organisations to increase the amount they can catch individually. Guidance is on the MMO website.
The MMO is aware of the need to secure additional fishing opportunity through swaps and is working to do this as soon as possible.
Skates and rays fishery in areas VI and VII (SRX/67AKXD)
The catch limit for this fishery for January 2015 is 1.5 tonnes.
The MMO recognises that the stock is of high importance in some areas and attracts good market prices in January. The limit is a compromise between this and the need to have fish available to other areas during the whole of 2015. (This fishery was closed in October 2014 as a last resort measure due to EU quota limits being reached.)
The historic figures used by the MMO to guide its decisions show that there is not generally a high level of fishing activity for this skates and rays quota in January in the UK as a whole, despite previously high catch limits.
In 2014 the catch limit for this fishery was 40 tonnes covering January and February, as it had been in 2013 and 2012. However, based on landings figures for skates and rays since 2012, very few vessels catch more than 1.5 tonnes in January. In 2012, which had the highest overall landings for skates and rays in the last 3 years, only 2 vessels exceeded this amount.
A cautious approach to catch limits for the skates and rays fishery, and a small number of other stocks, has also been taken as the MMO is anticipating penalties from the EC in the form of quota reductions. This is due to limits being exceeded in 2014.
The first job of the independent panel being established will be to review how the skates and rays fishery was managed in 2014 and look at how the MMO and industry can find the best possible way forward for all in the future.