European Union ministers reached a deal yesterday (15 December) to reduce many of next year’s fish quotas for overexploited species, while cautiously increasing others to ensure the livelihood of fishermen.
“I am delighted to say that we have reached an agreement for fish quotas for 2010,” said Eskil Erlandsson, agriculture minister for Sweden, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency.
“The quotas were based on scientific advice. Quotas have been reduced for sensitive stocks and cautiously increased for other stocks,” Erlandsson told a news conference in Brussels.
The ministers agreed to cut total allowable catches (TAC) for main species such as haddock, sole and cod by between 20-25% in 2010 from this year’s volumes, and increased the number of hake catches by 15% as stock concerns ease.
“Although many reductions have been necessary, we have done our utmost to lessen the short-term burden for the fisheries sector,” said EU Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Joe Borg.
The ministers also partially lifted a ban on anchovy fishing in the Bay of Biscay, requested by France and Spain, after a good indication of stock recovery following recent surveys.
“We have allowed for a fishery of 7,000 tonnes starting from January 2010, on the understanding that this figure will move up or down depending on the outcome of scientific advice in spring,” Borg said.
Although many species remained over-fished, a small but increasing number of stocks were now being fished at maximum sustainable yield levels, said Borg, adding that over-fishing was declining and could be phased out by 2015.
The 27-nation bloc maintained a total ban on fishing for porbeagle, a predatory shark, which it considers as critically endangered in the North Atlantic.
The deal reached on Tuesday is provisional until an agreement is reached with Norway.
Negotiations with Norway, with which the EU shares fishing stocks in the North Sea, collapsed last week over the management of mackerel stocks.
“This [provisional agreement] should allow for fishing activities to continue next January to give time to conclude negotiations with Norway,” Borg said.
Meanwhile, the European Commission is currently consulting stakeholders on the future direction of its Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), and will publish conclusions of this debate in early 2010.
The EU executive expects the reformed CFP to come into force in 2013.
(EURACTIV with Reuters.)