December 18, 2013
UK secures sustainable fishing deal at annual EU talks
At this year's annual round of EU fisheries talks, the UK government has secured a deal that is good for both the sustainability of fisheries and the UK fishing industry.
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.
UK has 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.
North Sea cod quotas will not be agreed until January, however they 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 they 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 they have accepted quota cuts where these are necessary. They 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 they 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 they 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.
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."
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; increased quotas for fishermen in many areas; and, as well as maintaining 2013 quotas for a number of flatfish stocks, such as lemon sole and witch.