Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Fishing quotas defy scientists’ advice

Fiona Harvey in the Guardian (UK): Britain’s fishermen will be allowed to increase their catch of cod and other key fish species next year after late-night wrangling between EU ministers in Brussels resulted in a new set of fishing quotas that flout scientific advice. The quota for cod catches for 2015 will increase by 5% on last year, though scientific advice suggested that it should be cut by 20%.

The UK’s fisheries minister, George Eustice, hailed the deal as a triumph for Britain’s dwi
ndling fishing fleets. He said: “Although these were difficult negotiations, I am pleased that we were able to secure the best possible deal to ensure sustainable fisheries and a strong UK fishing industry. While fishermen had feared there would be major cuts, we were able to keep the same quota as last year for many species, in addition to important increases to the North Sea cod and haddock quota, which will benefit Scottish fishermen.”

UK fishermen will also be allowed to catch 15% more prawns than last year and 15% more plaice in the North Sea, while the haddock catch has been increased by 6%. But in the Celtic Sea, fewer cod and haddock will be allowed to be caught – though the number is still more than scientists advised – and the number of sole to be caught in the Bristol and Eastern channels has been reduced.

Conservationists said the deal, reached after a day and a half of negotiations in Brussels, was not in line with what scientists had advised. After nearly four years of tense negotiations, the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy was finally reformed this year. In its new state, it is supposed to guarantee that fish stocks are managed at what scientists deem to be sustainable levels, known as the maximum sustainable yield.

Andrew Clayton, of the Pew Charitable Trusts, which advocates a sustainable fisheries policy, said: “After decades of failing to get to grips with overfishing, the new common fisheries policy was supposed to bind ministers to setting sustainable fishing limits this year. Instead, they have set a considerable number of [quotas] in excess of the level scientists advised, failing to meet the targets they set themselves for overfishing. These are weak decisions, jeopardising the livelihoods of fishermen and the sustainability of stocks.”...

A fishing trawler in front of the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth, shot by Darren Rosson Darren Rosson, Wikimedia Commons via Geograph UK, under the Creative Commons 2.0 Generic license

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