After 2 long days of negotiations in Brussels that ended in the early hours of Wednesday 16th December, Fisheries Ministers and Commission officials agreed a deal setting fish catch limits for the coming year.
These limits and their associated terms of exploitation provide a template for the new Demersal fisheries Landing Obligations known as the “discards ban”, that come into force on 1st January.
Although many stocks are not yet included in the list of in-scope stocks, the Total Allowable Catches and the national Quotas have been set with an eye to reducing the risk of perversely increasing the level of discarding for some of the “data limited stocks”.
For the members of the SWFPO Ltd who exploit the waters of the English Channel, the North Sea and Bristol Channel, the quotas agreed provide a mix of good news and bad.
At the post-Council briefing, Fisheries Minister George Eustice revealed the results that generally were greeted with optimism for the future of the fishing industry.
In the west Channel fisheries there is welcome increase for Sole fishermen, mainly operating Beam Trawlers from Brixham. Their 7e Sole quota goes up by 15%. This increase was limited to 15% by the Regulation governing such things. The industry thus missed out on a scientifically justified increase of 44% that could have yielded £1million earnings for SWFPO members.
Throughout the Channel the Plaice fishery quota is increased by 139%. More than doubling their allocations will ensure the fishermen have enough quota that discarding will be ended. The extra 941 tonnes should swell members’ incomes dramatically.
The income gained from these West Channel Sole and Plaice increases is calculated at around £3 millions.
In the east Channel fisheries the proposed cut was 32% off the Sole quota. Although that cut has been reduced to 14% by also agreeing a new multi-annual recovery and management plan, nevertheless the loss to SWFPO members is very unwelcome at around £500,000!
Hake quota was increased by very welcome 9.5%, yielding an extra £1 millions for SWFPO members.
Jim Portus, the Chief Executive of the SWFPO Ltd said of the deal,
“Yet another marathon quota-setting session has ended of the Council of Fisheries Ministers. Our lead negotiator, George Eustice MP, was set a daunting task with a large range of proposed quota cuts to scrutinise under a scientific microscope. The EC Commission tends to make their proposals based on single-species exploitation patterns and single-species stock assessments. Where the fisheries are “mixed” and multi-species and where the stock assessments are “data-limited”, the Minister is entitled to query the basis for the proposals and to negotiate having regard for the reality of the fisheries and the fishermen.
“5 Stocks are going up, 8 stocks are non-movers and 6 stocks are going down. Thus I’d calculate that SWFPO members are set to be rewarded from the many growing Channel fish stocks with an extra income to the tune of £3millions, mainly gained from Plaice and Hake. The Dover Sole gains in west Channel are cancelled by losses in east Channel and Bristol Channel.
SW TAC: Hake+9.5%, Sol7a-55%, Sol7d-14%, Sol7e+15%, Sol7fg-9%, SolPle7hkRO, Ple7de+100%, Had-13%, Cod-10%, Meg+5%, Ang7RO, SR7d+10%, SR7ekRO, Pol7RO, Pok7RO.
South Western Fish Producer Organisation Ltd.