EU sets fishing quotas for 2015, pleases fishermen, angers NGOs
The EU’s Agriculture and Fisheries Council (AGRIFISH) has finished its process for setting fishing quotas for various species for 2015, and while the official list of who is getting what is not out yet, industry groups are already praising AGRIFISH’s work, while some NGOs say they are disappointed.
The quotas, not released at the time of this writing, are the first to be established under the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), and followed strict new rules governing updated Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) levels. Karmenu Vella, European commissioner for the environment and maritime affairs and fisheries, speaking at a 16 December AGRIFISH press conference announcing the council’s decision, said the new quotas are based on science, and prove the new CFP works.
“Today one can say that the reformed Common Fisheries Policy passed its first real test,” Vella said. “It passed the test with the unanimous support of all member states.”
Industry leaders said they were overall pleased with the council’s efforts, but still wary about the discard ban set to go into effect in January of 2015. Javier Garat, president of European fishing industry group Europeche, said the proposed quota cuts were “significant, but in some cases manageable.”
"The council have tried to bring a degree of common sense to the exaggerated commission proposals which were based on a political decision of strict MSY targets, whose threshold gives no weight to the socio-economic factors of fishing,” Garat said.
The Scottish Fisheries Federation issued a statement describing the council’s new quotas as “bringing some stability for the Scottish fleet,” but the federation’s chief executive, Bertie Armstrong, said he was still concerned about the upcoming discard ban.
“Fishermen hate having to discard and throw perfectly good fish over the side, but we have real fears that the landing obligation will be implemented in a way that will lead to unnecessary damage to the industry,” Armstrong said. “Unbelievably, the present regulations which force fishermen to discard fish — such as the ‘minimum landing size’ rules — remain in force and there is no legal certainty over whether these regulations or the new ones will prevail.”
Environmental activist group Greenpeace panned the new quotas, saying the council failed to protect stocks.
“Only last year, ministers committed to put an end to overfishing by the end of 2014 under the newly reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), but today they failed to respect the new rules,” said Saskia Richartz, Greenpeace’s EU fisheries policy director. “While some fishing quotas were reduced in line with scientific advice (herring and horse mackerel), ministers have maintained existing fishing quotas or accepted weaker cuts than scientists recommended for crucial stocks, including cod in most areas and sole in the Eastern Channel and Irish Sea.”
Activist group Seas at Risk issued similar comments on the council’s move.
“While we see some improvement compared to last year, Fisheries Ministers failed to end overfishing for most stocks in 2015 without justification, even though this is now legally required,” said Monica Verbeek, the group’s executive director. “It seems they are still clinging on to their existing bad habits of ignoring scientific advice for short term profit.”