Government response

Fisheries closures explained

The MMO has provided an update about recent and anticipated closures of fisheries due to quota limits being exhausted.

The MMO recognises the importance of its role in helping the fishing industry to make use of as much as possible of 2014 quotas. The early closure of fisheries is regrettable and we are aware of the impact these have and the frustration caused, particularly to those who have not exhausted their quota allocations.

Where possible the MMO seeks to involve the industry and notify them in advance of our decisions, however there are occasions when it may need to take action and make closures at short notice. The early closure of fisheries is a last resort when all other efforts have been exhausted. If quota limits are exceeded they will have to be paid back next year and penalties may be applied by the European Commission, meaning the UK would have even less quota for 2015.

The MMO generally expects several fisheries to be at over 70 percent of quota uptake at this stage of the year. It has identified around 10 fisheries with particularly high uptake and therefore likely to be at risk of reaching quota limits imminently. It has been warning industry groups of those fisheries at risk of closure and are also working with them, and on their behalf, to try and secure additional quota from international swaps. The success of swaps depends on factors like the uptake of these stocks in other EU member states.

Plaice fishery in the English Channel (areas VIId and VIIe)

The [ishery was closed to the English under 10 metre and non-sector quota pools from Sunday 26 October 2014 as both groups have fished more than their current allocated quota. Uptake on 27 October 2014 was over 115 percent for the English under 10s and 102 percent for the English non-sector.

Up to 5 percent (around 75 tonnes) of the 2015 UK quota for this stock could be fished in 2014 under EC flexibility rules. However, the UK is estimated to have already fished over 100 percent of our quota, taking into account data that is yet to show on the monitoring systems. (The latest stock uptake at 27 October 2014 at UK level is 95 percent.)

Therefore, the fishery is unlikely to re-open and a UK closure is imminent for this stock unless quota can be sourced internationally.

The MMO is in discussion with Belgium, the Netherlands and France to request quota swaps as these member states also have a quota for this stock. Any possible deals may be limited however as they also have relatively high uptake.

There has been a trend of quota reductions for this stock year-on-year. Quotas are set at an EU level and aim to increase stocks over the long-term. However, in the short to medium term this makes the role of the MMO more difficult in managing the quota to try to provide sufficient opportunities for fishermen to make a living.

The quota for this stock is recommended to be cut by 14 percent in 2015 in the scientific advice published by ICES. This is based on the data limited method (Eastern English Channel or ICES area VIID) and the maximum sustainable yield approach (Western Channel or area VIIe.)

Skates and rays fishery in the North Sea (SRX2AC4-C)

The skates and rays fishery in the North Sea (areas IIa and IV) was [losed with effect from Sunday 26 October 2014 to English under 10 metre and non-sector vessels. This closure is due to the fact that both groups have fished more than their current allocated quota.

There is no flexibility granted by the EU for the UK to use any of its 2015 quota for this fishery this year. The UK is estimated to be within one week of reaching 100 percent of our quota, taking into account data that is yet to show on the monitoring systems. The stock uptake at UK level was over 91 percent on 22 October 2014.

Therefore, the under 10 metre and non-sector fisheries are unlikely to re-open and a UK closure is imminent for this stock unless quota can be sourced internationally.

The MMO is in discussions with Belgium and Germany as these members may have a limited amount of quota of this stock to trade. However, any possible deals would be limited in tonnage and therefore have little impact on the overall UK uptake position. Other member states with quota have a high uptake and so will not be able to trade with us.

UK quota for skates and rays in the North Sea has been significantly reduced - by over 50 percent since 2006 and almost 80 percent since 2000. This means that quota available to MMO is insufficient to meet the current needs of the inshore fleet for which this is an important species.

Skates and rays fishery in areas VI and VII (SRX/67AKXD)

The MMO closed this fishery on 12 October as landings information indicated that, after allowance is made for landings already made but not yet entered onto the MMO database, the UK quota for this stock has been exhausted.

The closure is explained on the MMO website and in a [fishing vessel licence variation issued on 10 October 2014

The MMO is pursuing international swaps to source extra quota and have negotiated a number of these, 20 tonnes from Spain and 16 tonnes from Portugal, although this is not enough to re-open the fishery.

Latest landing data shows that uptake has risen to 92 percent despite the quota brought in to the UK via the international swaps. The MMO is not yet able to say whether the fishery will be able to re-open in 2014. If it does not this year it will re-open on 1 January 2015.

Other information

Quotas are set annually at a European level by fisheries ministers. Defra takes part in these discussions on behalf of the UK.

Quota use statistics are available on the MMO website and updated weekly.

Statistics on fish landings are available on the MMO website. In 2013 UK vessels landed 2,600 tonnes of skates and rays into the UK, worth £3.2 million. 1.800 tonnes of these were in England, worth £2.4 million.