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Concern for Quotas Ahead of 2016 Fishing Opportunity Meeting

Sustainability Economics Politics +2 more

EU - EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, is presenting the European Commission's proposals for fixing fishing opportunities for 2016 for the Atlantic, North Sea and Black Sea to the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 14-15 December.

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This proposal sets out how much EU fishermen may catch from the main commercial fish stocks next year, estimated to be worth more than €4 billion.

For the first time the EC has also proposed the so-called quota "top-ups" for some fisheries that will come under the landing obligation in 2016.

These quotas aim to compensate fishermen for the fish they will have to land, without increasing pressure on stocks.

Decisions are taken within the framework of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy, which aims to have all stocks fished at sustainable levels by 2020 at the latest. EU Fisheries Ministers are set to reach political agreement so that the limits can enter into force on 1 January 2016.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, expressed concern at proposals for some of Ireland’s key fisheries quotas.

The Minister said that the rolling out of the new discards ban for a number of Irish stocks added to the complexities of this year’s negotiations.

“Some of the proposals for stocks of great importance to Irish fleets are unnecessarily restrictive in my view and do not reflect scientific advice. We must set quotas that support sustainable fish stocks and I will support cuts where the scientific advice is clear that that is the right thing to do. The Commission is proposing a 43 per cent and 27 per cent cut to our cod and haddock quotas in the Celtic Sea, these stocks are stable and cuts of this magnitude are not justified. Other serious cuts are proposed for our very valuable prawn quota which is not supported by the scientific advice and for whitefish quotas in the Irish Sea. We must set quotas that support sustainable fish stocks and I will support cuts where the scientific advice is clear that that is the right thing to do. I will be making a strong case to Commissioner Vella to make significant changes to these quota proposals.”

Mr Coveney added: “There is an added complexity to this year’s negotiations as the new landing obligation for certain stocks will apply from the 1 January 2016. During the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, brokered by Ireland, I was a strong advocate of a phased introduction of discards ban to end the wasteful practice of discarding high volumes of fish at sea. As part of that Reform, it was also agreed that quotas would be adjusted upwards for stocks covered by discards ban to take account of the new situation that all catches must now be landed. It is vital that this ‘uplift’ in quotas is fully applied to the stocks that come under the discards ban in 2016, to support its practical implementation.”

Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead also spoke before the meeting saying he will try to ensure the fleet has the additional fish quota and quota uplifts it needs.

“No-one, least of all our fishermen, want to see perfectly edible fish thrown back into the sea dead. The successful implementation of the discard ban can end this practice and it is crucial that the European Commission delivers the extra fish quotas and quota uplifts that our fishermen need," said Mr Lochhead.

“We’ve already seen positive signs with the agreed increases in quota for haddock and cod, in a package that will be worth around £15 million for Scottish fishermen, but we need that matched with increases in the total allowable catch and quota uplifts for the other species being negotiated in Brussels.

“The Scottish Government has been working hard with the industry to help them understand and prepare for the discard ban and I will be in Brussels to fight for the best possible deal for our fleet.

“The deeply flawed Cod Recovery Plan has been a millstone around our fishermen’s necks for far too long and their efforts which have borne fruit in the recovery of the North Sea Cod stock now need to be recognised. The cod stock is now over three times the size it was in 2006 and this year it is enjoying the highest advised catch tonnage in 15 years."

“Now is the time to demand that the Commission initiate immediate steps for the full repeal of the Cod Recovery Plan and all its dysfunctional elements.”