Uncertainty rattles EU quota talks


Lindsey Partos, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Paris

Published on
December 14, 2009

Negotiations for next year’s European fishing quotas kicked off this week, with fisheries ministers huddling together once again to slice up the numbers for key fish stocks.

Meeting in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday, the EU fisheries council is trying to move forward after talks with Norway broke down last week.

The failure to reach an agreement means numerous quotas will be off the table.

“They [the negotiations] also present an additional challenge as last week’s failure to conclude the EU-Norway talks means many quotas will not be finalized until those talks resume in the new year. The quota for our most valuable stock — prawns — will be decided, along with monkfish and megrim, but cod, haddock and mackerel quotas will not,” said Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead, who’s in Brussels for the meeting.

Each year, EU member states hammer out fishing opportunities — the quotas of fish and the allowable fishing effort — for European fishermen and in European waters. These decisions are made on the basis of a proposal from the European Commission.

The talks this week follow the European Commission’s green paper published earlier this year that painted a way forward for the bloc’s fisheries policy.

In the paper, the EC said 88 percent of European fish stocks are overfished, compared to a global average of 25 percent, and 30 percent of European fish stocks are “outside safe biological limits,” or cannot reproduce at a normal rate because the parenting population is too depleted.

In a statement preceding the talks on Monday and Tuesday, the EC claimed the 2010 fishing opportunities proposal “still contains more reductions than increases.”
And addressing potential criticism regarding the reduction in quotas across 59 stocks, Europe’s executive body maintained that “a consistent and rigorous application of conservation criteria … will, in time, result in replenished stocks and equilibrium between fishing and fish production.”

The EC has limited total allowable catch (TAC) reductions to 15 percent for 49 stocks, while for a further 10 stocks reductions beyond 15 percent “have proven unavoidable.”

On the flip side, the EC has put forward TAC increases for eight stocks where “scientific advice is positive.”
Meanwhile, Greenpeace on Monday urged the EU fisheries council to reduce quotas. “Ministers dish out excessive fishing quotas to please the fishing industry, but the result is that too many fishermen are chasing too few fish,” said Saskia Richartz, Greenpeace-EU oceans policy director.

And WWF Scotland is hoping member states will sign off on conservation measures, such as installing CCTV cameras on vessels to monitor fishing efforts, and move from landing to catch quotas in the North Sea.

“Since its introduction in 2008, the Conservation Credits Scheme [in Scotland] has played a significant role in helping stocks such as cod to recover,” said Louize Hill, marine policy officer at WWF Scotland. “Simple measures can have huge benefits when they are implemented and enforced adequately. Having all relevant parties involved in the development of these measures has ensured they are adopted willingly.”

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