MCS response to European fisheries agreements, December 2015

Richard Harrington By: Richard Harrington
Date posted: 16 December 2015

It’s that time of the year again when the Council of Ministers gather to discuss and agree the TAC’s and quotas for the following year, just in time for Christmas.

It’s that time of the year again when the Council of Ministers gather to discuss and agree the TAC’s and quotas for the following year, just in time for Christmas. As with most other years, the results of this discussion are a mixed bag of fish. While some stocks are showing encouraging signs of improvement and the resultant quotas reflect this, showing equally significant increases, others remain firmly stuck in Christmas past. The good news story of the year has certainly been the increases in North Sea Cod stocks which have risen to levels above those considered to be severely depleted - the quotas, as a result, reflect all the hard work and sacrifice in this fishery (an increase of 15% on last year). However, not all fish are created equal and in the case of Cod while the North Sea stock is showing improvements other stocks such as the Kattegat and Celtic Sea Cod stocks are not in such good shape. To add salt to the wound the quota set for Kattegat Cod is three times that recommended by ICES (the scientific body who advise on fish stock sustainability) and no directed fishery is advised for Cod in the Irish Sea. Other similarly contradictory stories can be seen in the Hake fisheries - where Northern Hake is doing well and the quota reflects this, where as Southern Hake stocks have quotas set almost 50% higher than those recommended by the European Commission. Seabass, which has been a major focus for the UK due to its importance to both the recreational and commercial fisheries sectors is once again in the limelight, and we are concerned that too little is being done to ensure the future of this stock. Recreational anglers face a catch and release only period for the first half of the year followed by a one fish limit for the second half. The commercial sector will also be subject to a moratorium on fishing between February and March and face restrictions to catches the rest of the year, however, this may not be enough to protect the already heavily overfished stock. We feel that the proposals are unlikely to allow the stock to meet targets of sustainable fishing by 2017 and following the next set of ICES advice if the reduction in catches has not resulted in a significant decrease in mortality then a complete moratorium on fishing for seabass should not be discounted to allow the stock to recover. MCS continues to advocate for the use of the best available scientific advice to inform future quota agreements in line with the requirements of the Common Fisheries Policy. The CFP requires all stocks to be fished at sustainable levels by 2020 at the very latest - to achieve this we must fish at levels recommended by scientific advice as sustainable and importantly we must show ambition and a true desire to meet these targets to ensure the long-term sustainability of our seas for the future. Visit the MCS Good Fish Guide MCS sustainable seafood work is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery

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