No catch limits on non-TAC stocks

A fisheries deal for 2021 has finally been agreed with the EU, but many of the most difficult issues have been sidestepped for 2021 and referred to the new joint fisheries committees, reports Tim Oliver.

TACs have been set for 70 stocks and supersede the previous provisional catch limits for 2021. The final TACs are in line with the provisional TACs set earlier in the year, apart from eight that have small increases.

But for vital non-quota stocks, no catch limits have been set, and both UK and EU vessels will be able to fish in each other’s waters with no restrictions, as before.

Both parties have also committed to exchanging quotas on an interim basis ahead of a longer-term exchange system which will be set up by the joint UK-EU specialised committee on fisheries (SCF) set up under the Brexit TCA.

The SCF will provide a forum for discussions on a range of fisheries matters between the EU and UK, including management plans for non-quota species, and was due to meet for the first time this month.

Issues to be discussed by the SCF and its sub-committees include skates and rays, terms of reference for Celtic Sea mixed fishery advice, deep-sea stocks, stocks with no ICES advice, geographic flexibility, spurdog, management of discards, landing obligation and TAC deductions, technical measures, multiyear strategies for non-quota stocks, and seabass monitoring, management and assessment.

The agreement also adjusted measures for the management of sea bass to reduce discards without affecting sustainability.

DEFRA said the agreement means that UK vessels will be able to catch 160,000t of fish in 2021 worth around £333m. This is around 26,000t more quota than in 2020, worth an estimated £27m.

DEFRA secretary George Eustice said the government had been ‘steadfast’ in representing the industry’s interests as the UK moved forward as an independent coastal state and aimed to manage its fisheries more sustainably. “This agreement provides certainty to our fishing industry, and we now have a stable platform in place for managing our fisheries this year and in future years,” said the minister.

“The agreement with the EU also provides a framework, via the specialised committee on fisheries, for continued co-operation on fisheries management to support conservation and sustainable fishing.”

DEFRA said that as an independent coastal state with a commitment to sustainable fisheries, the UK is taking ‘a more rigorous approach to assessing MSY in relation to negotiated outcomes’.

Updating MPs on the agreement, fisheries minister Victoria Prentis said 2021 was ‘a landmark year’, with the UK negotiating as an independent coastal state for the first time in over 40 years.

On non-quota stocks, she said that ‘due to the late conclusion of negotiations this year and the need to provide our respective industries with clarity, the UK and EU agreed that, exceptionally, tonnage limits would not be applied in 2021’.

“The UK and EU have instead agreed to work together through the specialised committee on fisheries to develop multi-year strategies for managing non-quota stocks as a priority, as well as addressing challenges in mixed fisheries management, particularly in the Celtic Sea, and on implementing a longer-term exchange system for quota,” she said.

“The agreement includes a commitment to quickly develop an interim basis for exchanging fishing quota ahead of a longerterm exchange system to be decided by the SCF.”

The UK expects that quota exchanges will be part of future annual negotiations, as provided for in the Brexit TCA.

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here



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