For as long as total allowable catches and days-at-sea restrictions are fixed at the December Council of Ministers, it will remain important for the NFFO to work to ensure that those decisions are the best possible for the fishing industry.
There is no disguising that the December Council is an inherently flawed process - often referred to as a circus- and has been the source of many decisions that have inflicted real harm on the industry and on the stocks, mainly through unintended consequences.
The Council itself has recognised the need to move away from a continual cycle of crisis management towards long term management plans, introduced after proper impact assessments; this should, over time, provide more stability for the industry.
In the meantime, we have little choice but to work with ministers, officials and through the regional advisory councils, to limit potential damage and where possible, to introduce positive measures. To that end an NFFO delegation met recently with UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon to discuss UK priorities in this autumn’s negotiations. This meeting followed:
- A meeting in July with Cefas scientists and Defra officials to discuss ICES scientific advice, on which TAC and effort decisions will be based
- RAC advice prepared and submitted to the Commission on the Commission’s general approach to TACs as set out in its annual Policy Statement
- An NFFO meeting with Defra officials in early October to discuss NFFO priorities for the autumn negotiations
- A meeting of European fishing interests in mid-October with the Commission to discuss the Commission’s approach to setting TACs, against the background of advice produced by STECF (the Commission’s quality control committee)
The next step will be a meeting of UK Ministers with various stakeholders, in Belfast. The Commission’s proposals are expected towards the end of October, and the EU/Norway negotiations (that in reality set the TACs for most North Sea TACs) will begin in Brussels in mid-November. The Council will begin on 13th December after further discussions between the Minister and the NFFO and other stakeholders.
The Federation has prepared and submitted a position paper to Defra on its priorities for the Council. It covers the following items:
- Cod recovery, including catch quotas and the effort regime
- Irish Sea Issues and concerns including nephrops
- Celtic Sea cod
- The application of maximum sustainable yield to TACs in 2011 and beyond
- Nephrops TACs and “functional units”
- “Use it or lose it” stocks – stocks the Commission deem to be underutilised, although individual member states will be severely disadvantaged by a TAC reduction
- Treatment of data poor stocks – where TACs are reduced because ICES cannot provide a reliable assessment
- “Cosmetic” TACs – those that are applied to give the impression that the problem is being dealt with but which in reality result in little more than an increase in regulatory discards
- North Sea plaice
- North Sea whiting
- North East Arctic Cod
- Blue whiting