The Agriculture & Fisheries Council will meet in Brussels on Monday 14 (starting at 10.00), Tuesday 15 and Wednesday 16 December, under the presidency of Eskil Erlandsson, Swedish minister for Agriculture. Commissioners Mariann Fischer Boel, Androulla Vassiliou and Joe Borg will represent the Commission at the meeting.
On Monday and Tuesday afternoon, Council will deal with fisheries items; on Tuesday morning, health issues are on the agenda and on Wednesday, the Agriculture points will be discussed.
Over lunch on Tuesday, Ministers will be discussing the future of Common Policy for Animal Health and Welfare.
Fishing possibilities for 2010
The one highly important fisheries-related item on the Council agenda will be a political agreement on the Commission proposal for a Council Regulation fixing fishing opportunities for 2010 (IP/09/1538). This proposal concerns the main commercial stocks in the Atlantic, including the North Sea. Fishing opportunities for the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea were decided earlier this autumn.
In preparing the proposal the Commission has used the same objective working method, based on scientific advice, as in previous years. It has taken the views of Member States and the industry on board and sought to alleviate short-term difficulties for the catching sectors wherever possible. As a result, it has limited TAC reductions to 15 per cent in respect of 49 stocks, while for a further 10 stocks reductions beyond 15 per cent have proven unavoidable. On the plus side, the Commission has proposed TAC increases for eight stocks where scientific advice is positive. As always in fisheries management, a trade-off has to be made in foregoing fishing opportunities in the short term in order to secure a more stable and profitable future for the fishing industry.
The 2010 fishing opportunities proposal still contains more reductions than increases. However, a consistent and rigorous application of conservation criteria which takes account of scientific expertise and enjoys the support and direct involvement of the industry will, in time, result in replenished stocks and equilibrium between fishing and fish production. The goals of rebuilding depleted stocks and delivering sustainable fisheries in the long term are in line with the criteria laid down in the Commission's consultation document of May 2009 on fishing opportunities for 2010 (IP/09/747).
As part of the ongoing efforts to reduce discards, the practice of high-grading (i.e. discarding fish in view of a higher size/price catch) for any species subject to a quota has been banned. The Commission remains committed to reducing discards. In addition, fishers can do their bit to fish responsibly by returning to port once their quotas are used up, using selective fishing gear and avoiding concentrations of young fish.
This year's proposal does not yet include final figures for stocks managed jointly with Norway or the Faroe Islands, because the parties have not yet reached agreement on those resources. The Commission is therefore proposing provisional figures for these shared stocks to allow fishing to continue while the negotiations carry on early next year.