Tough UK driven decisions have delivered significant reform of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy, leading to improvements in fish stocks, substantial quota increases and a more profitable industry, Fisheries Minister George Eustice has announced.
The UK government fought hard to deliver a better deal for the UK fishing industry from the EU, achieving significant quota increases for iconic species like North Sea Cod next year, and a doubling of Channel Plaice, while continuing to conserve fish stocks in order to safeguard the future livelihoods of our fishing fleets and coastal communities. This showcases how UK-led reform in the EU can ensure the best of both worlds for our industry and consumers.
This announcement follows negotiations at the annual EU Fisheries and Agriculture Council where fishing quotas for 2016 were agreed. Decisions were based on three clear principles: following the available scientific advice; achieving sustainable levels of fishing and reducing discards.
As a result of UK-led reforms to ensure EU fisheries become more sustainable, the scientific evidence for many of our iconic species was positive this year. This has resulted in the UK being able to secure big quota increases for valuable fish such as:
- English Channel: +100% Plaice
- North Sea: +15% Cod, +47% Haddock
- Celtic Sea: +20% Hake
- Western Channel: +15% Sole
Where we could bring fresh science to the table we were also able to lobby against unjustifiable, precautionary cuts and instead ensured quotas were looked at on a case-by-case basis to provide more stability for fishermen. This resulted in our achieving quota increases for Megrim (+5%) in the Celtic Sea, alongside important ‘rollovers’, meaning fishermen targeting species such Pollock, Skates and Rays and Monkfish in the Celtic Sea can continue to fish at 2015 levels next year.
Commenting from Brussels, UK Fisheries Minister George Eustice said:
These negotiations are the culmination of months of government-led work to secure the best possible deal for the UK fishing industry, and the tough decisions we’ve taken to manage fishing and recover fish stocks are paying off; this is a great December Council result for UK fishermen.
I entered these discussions with the firm belief that any decisions need to support a profitable fishing industry, sustainable fish stocks and a healthy marine environment, and the significant quota increases we’ve achieved for iconic species like North Sea Cod demonstrate the success of this approach.
We still have more to do to reach Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) for all quota species by 2020 and to deliver the full discard ban by 2019, but already fishermen are benefitting from the action we’ve taken in recent years to recover stocks.
By fighting for the fishing industry, and making a clear case for the need for more sustainable fishing, we have got a good deal and shown we can get what we need in Europe. That’s just what we’re also doing in this European renegotiation – fighting hard for the UK.
In some cases there will still be some reductions in quota, including decreases for Nephrops (Langoustines) in the North Sea. This is important to ensure fishing opportunities support the recovery and long-term sustainability of our stocks and, in line with this approach, fishing restrictions were also agreed to aid the recovery of sea bass stocks which have suffered from a long-term decline. This means that next year there will be a six month closure of commercial bass fisheries (January to June), with partial exemptions for low impact, inshore fisheries. Recreational anglers will also continue to be able to target the fish for in the first six months of the year on the basis they release them back, alive, into the water.
Given the start of the demersal phase of the discard ban in January 2016 for species such as haddock, sole and plaice, the UK also ensured next year’s total allowable catch (TACs) took into account the ban on discarding fish. This resulted in a quota ‘uplift’ proportionate to the amount of fish estimated to have been previously discarded, of which the first 100 tonnes - and 10% of anything more – will be given to the ‘under 10 metre’ fleet to ensure we continue to deliver on Manifesto Commitments to support the smaller, inshore fleet.
The UK also successfully negotiated a number of further concessions. These include:
Days at sea kept at 2015 levels rather than reduced
Maintaining 2015 quotas for a number of stocks, including:
- Irish Sea: Plaice
- Celtic Sea: Monkfish, Skates and Rays, Pollock
- And accepting proposals for cuts where necessary to protect stocks, including:
- Irish Sea: -55% Sole
- North Sea: -3% Turbot and Brill, -19% Nephrops
- Bristol Channel: -9% Plaice
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. Richard Lochhead, Rebecca Evans and Michelle O’Neill also 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 to secure the best possible deal in order to meet our shared goals of a profitable fishing industry, sustainable fish stocks and a healthy marine environment.
Fishermen in the North East and Scotland also benefitted from the formal acceptance of our early agreements with Norway on fishing opportunities in Norway’s North Sea waters. These provided our fishermen with a further 1,630 tonnes of cod and 12,800 tonnes haddock, and an agreed ‘rollover’ of whiting and plaice, meaning fishermen can continue to catch these species at current 2015 levels next year.
Negotiations with the Faroe Islands to allow us to catch a number of species at 2015 quota levels in Faroese waters were also agreed at Council today.