Political agreements on next year’s catch limits for the 89 main commercial fish stocks in which E.U. vessels participate have been agreed by the Agriculture and Fisheries Council (AGRIFISH).
Following lengthy negotiations in Brussels on 16 and 17 December, there were increases for some key stocks, with the overall agreement increasing E.U. landings deemed to be at a sustainable level to 99.4 percent.
“The quota-setting exercise is never easy and this year it took us several hours of negotiations to get to an agreement,” Jari Leppä, president of the council and Finland's minister for agriculture and forestry, said. “But I am glad to announce that it is a balanced one that reconciles all the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy – environmental and socio-economic sustainability – to the benefit of the fish stocks, fishing sector and the E.U. citizens at large.”
The council agreed to continue for one year the previously agreed pool mechanism for quota exchanges. This decision was made to reflect the difficulties faced by E.U. fishermen in relation to mixed fisheries in certain areas and the risk of choke species.
Choke species are those that have a low quota that, when exhausted, can cause a vessel to stop fishing even if it still has quota for other species.
Meanwhile, in order to address the difficult situation of cod and whiting stocks in the Celtic Sea and cod in Kattegat, the council decided to introduce remedial measures with the aim of improving the selectivity of fishing gears and reducing bycatches.
Concerning sea bass, it was decided to slightly increase the bycatch levels in the northern areas and grant additional flexibility in their management.
On conclusion of the talks, E.U. Commissioner for Environment, Oceans, and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said that in 2020 the E.U. would “enter a new era of European fisheries,” and that the member states’ fleets will fish at a level that will not hinder the regeneration of the stocks.
“Today’s efforts will have an impact already in the following year,” he said. “We agreed on a number of substantial increases for more than 25 valuable fish stocks. The more sustainable we are, the more prosperous European fishermen and women will be.”
For the first time, the European Commission this year proposed fishing opportunities covering the Mediterranean Sea, and a 10 percent reduction of fishing effort for demersal species was agreed. Meanwhile a compromise on quotas was ratified for the Black Sea’s two most important commercial species, sprat and turbot, shared between Bulgaria and Romania.
“The balanced compromise, which reflects the importance of the three pillars of sustainability – environmental, social, and economic – will lead to thriving fishermen, women, and coastal communities, as well as healthy seas and oceans,” Sinkevičius said. “Today, we showed that we can keep up with a high pace ensuring sustainability in fisheries. It must be a new standard for the future.”
Photo courtesy of the European Commission