Challenging negotiations for fisheries
Positive outcome secured for West of Scotland cod and whiting.
At the conclusion of this year’s annual fisheries negotiations in Brussels, a resolution has been agreed that seeks to secure year-long fishing opportunities for all Scottish vessels. That includes mitigating potential ‘choke risk’ species including Cod and Whiting on the West of Scotland, and Ling and Hake in the North Sea.
The deal also allows for an urgent review of the discard ban before it has unintended and unjust impacts on industry.
The deal meets one of Scotland’s main priorities, which was to see West of Scotland stocks protected from potential overfishing, ensuring a sustainable future for those important species and the Scottish fishing fleet which relies upon their continued prosperity.
Fisheries Secretary Fergus Ewing said:
“This year’s negotiations in Brussels have been undertaken against an extraordinary political backdrop, adding to the already significant challenge of securing a good deal for Scottish fishing. Although it is worth noting that we were not in isolation, with reduced quotas being faced by all Member States across the board.
“I’m sure that many within our fishing industry will share my disappointment at some of the outcomes agreed, but recognise that the Scottish Government made the best of a bad situation, and is returning with something close to the best possible deal that could realistically be secured. We had always suspected that this would be a particularly difficult Council, and so it proved to be.
“Prior to the negotiations I stated that our priority was to find a resolution for choke risks associated with low or zero Total Allowable Catch (TAC) stocks above all other issues, so I’m very happy that a workable solution has been identified for Cod and Whiting stocks in particular. I’m sure that news will be welcomed wholeheartedly by the West of Scotland fishing industry, along with the potential to review the discard ban, should it be deemed necessary to stop any unintended consequences on our fishermen.
“That outcome was by no means certain though, and serves to demonstrate the valuable work done by Scottish officials in the past weeks and months.
“Of course there's a lot more work yet to be done before January 1 to prepare Scotland’s fleet for what may be a very challenging year ahead, but we will be working closely with industry – as ever – to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for Scottish fishermen.
“One of the side effects of Brexit is that there is no guarantee that Scotland and the UK Government will have a vote on what happens for the foreseeable future, so it’s more important than ever that we do everything in our power to make the most of the current deal – as it could be in place for some time.
Mike Park, Chief Exec of the Scottish White Fish Producers Association said:
"The dynamics of negotiations this year were always going to be complicated given full introduction of the landings obligation and the fact that this is our last fisheries council as a fully-fledged Member State. The outcome is less than what we hoped but as much as was possible under the circumstances. The important outcome is that our fleets should now be able to fully utilise the opportunities available to them in 2019".
December Council is the culmination of all the end year negotiations where everything is finalised. The actual stocks under negotiation at this Council are known as internal stocks fished only by the EU fleet, such as monkfish, west coast saithe, west coast whiting, megrim, skates and rays, west coast haddock, plaice, sole and Norway lobster commonly known as Nephrops (prawns).
At the Council each member state, and then Scotland as part of the UK, is allocated quotas for each stock – this caps the amount the industry is able to fish for each stock. The quotas look to balance scientific advice and the need for sustainable fishing, with economic interests.