The UK government has today secured a deal that is good for both the sustainability of fisheries and the UK fishing industry at this year’s annual round of EU fisheries talks.
These were the first EU quota negotiations since agreeing the historic reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and it has been imperative that next year’s quotas are consistent with the new CFP. This has meant taking decisions based on three clear principles: following the available scientific advice; achieving sustainable levels of fishing (known as Maximum Sustainable Yield) by 2015 where possible and by 2020 at the latest; and reducing discards.
We have achieved this by securing for another year a vital freeze in the number of days fishermen can go to sea under the cod recovery plan. This gives fishermen the time they need to fish more selectively and avoid discarding perfectly good fish.
The UK also successfully negotiated a number of further concessions. These include:
- Days at sea kept at 2013 levels rather than reduced.
- Reducing cuts to a number of important fish quotas by providing sound scientific evidence to the Council including:
- Celtic Sea: 75% cut to haddock reduced to 33%
- West of Scotland: 20% cut to monkfish reduced to 10%
- Irish Sea: 24% cut to nephrops (prawns) reduced to 9%
- Eastern Channel: 45% cut to sole reduced to 18%
- Increased quotas for fishermen in many areas, including the following:
- Channel: 15% monkfish;
- West of Scotland and Irish Sea: megrim 20%; Rockall haddock 22%
- Celtic Sea: 30% herring; 25% Bristol Channel plaice
- Irish Sea: 5% herring
- All UK waters: 49% hake
- Maintaining 2013 quotas for a number of flatfish stocks, such as lemon sole and witch.
Speaking from Brussels, Fisheries Minister George Eustice said:
Although these were difficult negotiations, I am pleased that we were able to secure the best possible deal for ensuring sustainable fisheries and a strong UK fishing industry.
It was my top priority to ensure that days at sea for fishermen would remain the same next year and that is exactly what has been achieved.
I entered these discussions with the firm belief that any decisions on quotas or days spent at sea need to be based on three clear principles; following scientific advice, fishing sustainably and the need for continued reduction in discarding. We stuck to these principles throughout.
North Sea cod quotas won’t be agreed until January 2014; however we will be pushing for a quota for cod which is consistent with achieving Maximum Sustainable Yield by 2015. There has also been broad recognition at this year’s negotiations that when dealing with mixed fisheries discards can be difficult to manage. That is why we have followed scientific advice by agreeing quotas that will reduce discards and help achieve sustainable stocks.
Many fish stocks are becoming healthier but some have a longer way to go and we have accepted quota cuts where these are necessary. We are also fishing more sustainably but further work can be done to make fishing methods even more sustainable. The UK has been praised for steps we are already taking to do this – including making strong progress on the selectivity of fishing gear and implementing our catch quota schemes which eliminate discards.
Other areas where we have achieved positive results include reducing the proposed cut in quota for Celtic Sea haddock and increased flexibility for fishermen to choose where they can catch monkfish. Both of these achievements will prevent discards of these stocks.