The marathon 5-month negotiation between the UK and the EU for a fisheries agreement for 2021 has concluded with a settlement. Some details on the written record are still being finalised but the Secretary of State for the UK and the Fisheries Commissioner for the EU have both announced agreement in principle.
The NFFO will reserve comment on the package as a whole until after the agreed record has been published. In the meantime, the information that has been made available is reproduced below.
It is worthy of note that the following factors have been significant both in the content of the agreement and how the negotiations were conducted:
- The terms of the UK/EU trade and cooperation agreement
- The UK’s insistence on its right of regulatory autonomy as an independent coastal state
- The EU’s efforts to limit divergence from the CFP
- The constraints applied by having to negotiate remotely because of Covid related restrictions
One of the central purposes of the agreement, setting TACs for 2021, had already been taken out of the equation after the UK, at the beginning of May, autonomously set provisional quotas for the UK fleets; these will now be formally adopted into the agreement without significant change.
The main points of disagreement between the two parties (now resolved) eventually boiled down to:
The following changes to Area flexibility apply North of 58.30’, between Area 6a (West of Scotland) and Area 4 (North Sea). Otherwise, existing flexibilities continue to apply.
East to West West to East
Anglers 30% 20%
Haddock. 10% 25%
Ling 20% 40%
Megrim 20% 25%
Saithe 15% 30%
Tusk 25% 10%
Hake 6% 100%
Mackerel 60% 100%
Both parties have committed to engage urgently on interim quota exchanges and to a clear timeframe ahead of the establishment of the Specialised Committee. The Specialised Committees (yet to be established) will formulate arrangements for a more permanent exchange mechanism.
Both parties have agreed that notwithstanding the terms of the TCA, and reflecting the late stage in the year, tonnage limits on catches of non-quota species in each respective EEZ will not be enforced for 2021. Instead, catches on non-quota species will be monitored and work on a long-term management plan will be initiated within the context of the Specialised Committee
Seabass management measures
Arrangements for seabass have been amended:
- Trawl/seine catch limits have been changed from 520kgs per two-month period to 380kgs per month, within a 5% per trip limit
- The ban on bycatch of bass by shore nets has been removed, subject to close monitoring and limitation to those involved in this fishery prior to 2017
- There is no change to the recreational bag limit for bass
- Joint work on bass will continue in the specialised committee
Celtic Sea technical measures
The UK will apply new technical measures in the Celtic Sea which will apply to all vessels operating in that zone. These will apply from 3rd September 2021. Details to follow.
Notwithstanding the UK’s principled opposition to industrial fishing, the following TACs were agreed:
- Sandeel 92,500 tonnes
- Norway Pout 128,300 tonnes
Skates and Rays
Better ways of managing the various skates and rays stocks will be referred to the specialised committee
Mixed Fishery Advice
It is expected that the agreed record will contain wording on a more rational approach to managing mixed fisheries in the future.
All of the above is based on oral information and may be subject to adjustment when the UK/EU written record is made available.