‘Ministers strike a balance to protect livelihoods’ – December Council outcomes


Quota allocations for 2015 reflect stock recovery and acknowledge importance of local fishing communities.

The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) has said that EU ministers have struck a balance between protecting fishing livelihoods were protected, whilst continuing to rebuild fish stocks, when setting fishing quotas for 2015 at a meeting held in Brussels this week.

Despite pressure from environmental lobby groups, ministers took advantage of the flexibilities provided for them them by the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), to reduce proposed cuts on a number of major commercial species. Celtic Sea Haddock’s cut was reduced from 41% to 12%, while the cut of Celtic Sea cod was reduced from a proposed 64% to 26%. Eastern Channel sole still faced a cut of 28%, mitigated from -60%.

The decisions were made at the annual December Council meeting in Brussels, where representatives of the UK fishing industry, reflecting the diversity of the UK fleet, worked closely with the fisheries minister throughout negotiations.

The decision comes at a time when the industry already faces pressure due to quota species needing to meet the gold standard of sustainability measurements, called ‘maximum sustainable yield’ put in place as a legal obligation by the 2013 reform to the common fisheries policy.

The devastating consequences of getting these decisions wrong was seen during the course of this year with the effective closure of the Bristol Channel fisheries which saw the displacement of the larger vessels, the need to tie-up smaller boats and the closure of the main fish processor with consequent loss of jobs. The North Devon Fishermen’s Association, one of the most active fishermen’s groups in the country, also faces closer due to the near collapse of the local industry.

The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations chief executive, Barrie Deas, said: “Inevitably, the decisions made by ministers have been seen as a test between competing visions: strict adherence to the principles agreed in the 2013 CFP reform, versus a more pragmatic approach, which pays due attention to the socio-economic consequences of severe quota reductions.

“We were determined to get the balance right between continuing to move steadily towards high-yield fisheries, whilst safeguarding the livelihoods of fishermen and the resilience of fishing communities and are pleased these priorities are reflected in the outcome.

“The Council certainly demonstrated it was prepared to put livelihoods before political dogma masquerading as science. There were always going to be winners and losers and some of the cuts will still have major impacts on fishing businesses and communities around the country but we are relieved that, for the time being, ministers have listened to our call to protect an industry that provides livelihoods to so many and such a valuable, sustainable food source to our island nation.”

“A phased ban on discarding of unwanted or over-quota fish begins from 1 January 2015 and this transition will be a major challenge for fishermen and the management systems.”

This week’s decision is the culmination of many years of working with scientists to reduce the impact fishing activity has on stock levels. A 50% reduction in fishing mortality, often painfully achieved, across all the main species groups, and across the whole North East Atlantic, beginning around the year 2000, have laid the foundations for sustainable fisheries now and in the future.

The worst hit stocks facing significant cuts are Eastern Chanel sole (28%) cod (26%), haddock (12%), whiting (14%) and Bristol Channel Sole (15%).