The UK Government has secured a deal that is good for both the health of our seas and the UK fishing industry at this year’s annual round of fisheries talks.
In negotiations that went through the night and into the morning, the UK managed to fight huge cuts to quotas across a number of different fish stocks. These proposed cuts, which the UK successfully pushed back against, were not backed up by scientific evidence, and could have contributed to an increase in the discarding of perfectly edible fish.
This positive news follows another major success, achieved during the first day of negotiations, when the UK successfully stopped a cut in the number of days that fishermen are allowed to spend fishing at sea.
Before these negotiations began, UK fishermen faced the prospect of having the number of days they could spend fishing cut by a quarter. However the UK government overturned this agreement, made as part of the Cod Recovery Plan. Scientific advice showed that these automatic reductions were only serving to increase cod mortality and discards, rather than help conserve stocks.
Without this agreement many fishermen would not have had the necessary time available to get to where cod fishing would prove most sustainable and may have been forced to target young fish closer to shore.
While the quota for cod in 2013 will be decided in January, Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon will be arguing against the Commissions proposed 20% cut, and instead will be calling for the quota to be set based on scientific evidence to recover the stock by 2015 whilst also working to significantly reduce discards.
Speaking from Brussels, Richard Benyon, Minister for the Natural Environment and Fisheries, said:
“This has been my third year attending these frustrating negotiations and I am delighted that we were able to secure the best possible deal for the UK fishing industry.
“The current Cod Recovery Plan has failed to deliver. It was my one of my priorities to ensure that days at sea for fishermen would remain the same next year and that is exactly what has been achieved.
“I always enter these discussions clear in my mind that any decisions on quotas, or days spent at sea, need to be based on three clear principles; following scientific advice, fishing sustainability and the need for continued discard reduction. We stuck to these principles throughout.”
The UK also successfully negotiated a number of further concessions. These include:
- Days at sea kept at 2012 levels rather than reduced.
- Removed threat to continued success of the catch quota trial by taking away proposed restrictions on the movement of quota.
- Fighting off large cuts to a number of important fish quotas, including data poor stocks, by providing sound scientific evidence to the Council including:
- Celtic Sea: 55% cut to Haddock reduced to 15%
- South West: 20% cut to Megrim avoided
- West of Scotland: 40% cut to megrim reduced to 7%
Increased quotas for fishermen in many areas, including the following:
- Channel: 26% Plaice; 6% Sole
- West of Scotland & Irish Sea: 18% and 6% Nephrops
- Celtic Sea: 29% Whiting
- Irish Sea: 5% Herring