Increased fishing quotas for some valuable species have been agreed at December EU Fisheries Council today, with stocks recovering after years of the UK’s insistence on limiting catches within sustainable scientific limits.
While challenges remain for some species, the UK Government 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%
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.
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%.
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.
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.
Increases were also secured for blue whiting, around £5.9m, and Atlanto-Scandian herring, worth over £1m.
Following the conclusion of the negotiations with the Faroe Islands, fishermen will benefit from a rollover of the same catch limits as last year for species including cod, haddock and blue whiting.
Fisheries Council outcomes
The UK also successfully negotiated a number of further concessions. These include:
Increased quota for fishermen in many areas, including the following:
- North Sea Hake (+12%) and Western Hake (+9%)
- Sole in the North Sea (+14%)
- Rockall Haddock (+45%)
Reducing cuts to a number of important fish quotas by providing sound scientific evidence to the Council. Including:
- Megrim in Western Waters (-25%)
- Sole in Eastern Channel (-15%)
As well as maintaining 2016 quotas for a number of stocks, including:
- Sole and Cod in the Irish Sea
- Whiting in the West of Scotland
And accepting proposals for cuts where necessary to protect stocks, including:
* Plaice (-19.5%) and Sprat (-20%) in the Channel
The Fisheries Minister George Eustice represented the UK in Brussels to ensure a package of measures that reflected the interests of all parts of the country. Fergus Ewing Cabinet Secretary, Lesley Griffiths Cabinet Secretary and Michel Mcllveen, Minister all attended for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, respectively.
The negotiations were the culmination of months of UK government-led meetings to hear from fishermen, devolved administrations, scientists and environmental NGOs.