Agreements on next year’s catch limits for more than 200 commercial fish stocks in the Atlantic, North Sea, Mediterranean, and the Black Sea have been reached by European Union fisheries ministers following two days of intense negotiation at the annual Agrifish Council meeting.
As more than 100 of the stocks in the Atlantic and North Sea have historically been co-managed with the United Kingdom, and given the ongoing E.U.-U.K. negotiations on their future relationship, ministers agreed to set provisional quotas for the fish stocks shared with Britain.
The provisional quotas are designed to ensure the continuation of sustainable fishing in the concerned areas until consultations with the U.K. are concluded, the European Council said.
A similar approach was agreed for stocks co-managed with Norway.
In a statement, E.U. Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said the stakes of the negotiations had been very high, with the need to address environmental, social, and economic sustainability pillars.
“The E.U.’s fleet has suffered from the COVID-19 crisis and is facing uncertainty due to still ongoing E.U.-U.K. negotiations. With urgent support measures in last spring, we have been able to bring a slight relief. But today we also needed to give our fishermen and women a perspective beyond 2021,” he said.
German Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture Julia Klöckner said Brexit and COVID-19 created an “unprecedented situation” for E.U. fishing communities, and that this year's negotiations were, in many cases, done in “unchartered waters.”
“But I think that the agreement we forged is a good compass for the months to come. It allows us to secure continuity and a clear future for our fishing communities to the maximum extent possible without undermining our sustainability commitments,” Klöckner said.
The provisional quotas include a proportionate rollover of the existing 2020 fishing opportunities for the first three months of 2021, applying a 25 percent ratio of the total existing E.U. quota.
Ministers also agreed on certain exceptions to this approach based on seasonality and scientific advice.
To safeguard stocks, it was agreed to reduce catch limits for plaice in Kattegat, Norway lobster in Skagerrak, hake and pollock in the Southern part of the Atlantic, and several deep-sea species – including one stock of roundnose grenadier and black scabbardfish.
Regarding the fishing opportunities in the Mediterranean and Black Seas, ministers agreed to further reduce demersal fishing efforts in western Mediterranean by 7.5 percent. This reduction is part of the commitment for an overall and gradual reduction of up to 40 percent until the beginning of 2025 to progressively reach maximum sustainable yield for all stocks concerned in the highly mixed fisheries.
Photo courtesy of the European Council