EAPO has issued its position paper on fishing opportunities and Coastal States negotiations for pelagic stocks for 2023.

EAPO has issued its position paper on fishing opportunities and Coastal States negotiations for pelagic stocks for 2023. Photo: Vikingbank

The EU pelagic industry has issued its position paper on fishing opportunities and Coastal States negotiations for pelagic stocks for 2023.

The coastal state negotiations are due to start on Friday 14 October with a lot for the EU pelagic sector to fight for.

At the end of September, the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) sets out its advice for fishing opportunities in 2023 which saw a slight decrease in the recommended total allowable catch (TAC) for mackerel (782,066 tonnes in 2023 compared to 794,920 in 2022), a setting of a TAC of zero for horse mackerel, a decrease in the TAC for Norwegian Spring-spawning herring (511,171 tonnes in 2023, compared to 598,588 tonnes in 2023), a decrease for North Sea herring to 414 486 tonnes (-22% compared to the previous advice), and an increase in the TAC for blue whiting from 752,736 tonnes in 2022 to 1,359,629 tonnes in 2023.

In their position paper released today, the European Association of Fish-Producers Organisations (EAPO) notes that the EU pelagic industry agrees with the advice but on mackerel they say, “We argue that the ICES advice would likely have been an increase of the TAC were it not for the current overshoot of the TAC as a result of excessive unilateral quotas set by other Parties.”

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For the past two years, Norway, the Faroe Islands and Iceland have unilaterally set their own quotas for mackerel. They say that a failure to reach agreement at the annual costal states meetings in 2020 and 2021 was to blame. In turn, the EU and the UK have been quite vocal on the matter with calls from across the industry for sanctions against the three nations.

The EAPO also noted that the EU must not allow Norway and the UK to introduce zonal attachment. They write:

“The EU pelagic industry calls on the Commission and the Council to stick firmly to the position that the concept of zonal attachment cannot serve as the basis for a sharing arrangement. Instead track records should be respected, with a view to providing continuity, stability and predictability. Some Parties however, in particular Norway and the UK, advocate the use of the concept of zonal attachment as the main criterion.”

On blue whiting, the EAPO writes that the industry is happy to see that under the current management plan recruitment and biomass are now at some of the highest levels ever and welcomes the advice on the increase in quota.

For NVG (Atlanto-Scandian) herring the EAPO says the EU fishing industry wants to follow the advice but notes that no consultations on a sharing arrangement have been scheduled for the remainder of 2022 and that a report on the stock’s geographical distribution has not yet been made available.

They also say:

“The industry does not support a package approach for a sharing arrangement and reciprocal access for all three pelagic stocks under the remit of the Coastal States.”

On North Sea herring, the say:

“We urge the EU, the UK and Norway to work together on a long-term management strategy taking into account all factors impacting stock (spawning) dynamics, including those related to climate, the ecosystem and other economic uses of the relevant areas. Research is needed to better assess the effects on the herring stock and recruitment of the greatly increasing abundance of windfarms and predator populations.”

Replying to the advice from ICES for a zero allowable catch on horse mackerel, the EAPO writes:

“The EU pelagic industry notes with great concern the ICES advice for a zero-TAC (0 tonnes) for this stock, with ICES’s assessment showing a consistently low recruitment. The assessment includes a retrospective adjustment scaling fishing mortality further upward and spawning stock biomass (SSB) further downward, leading the latter to fall below Blim. Said adjustment and the possible influence of the positive outlier of the 1982 (!) year class appear to be weaker elements in the current model. Therefore the EU industry calls for a benchmark procedure to be carried out without delay, covering the Western, Southern and North Sea horse mackerel stocks.”

In relation to the EU-Norway exchange of quotas, the EAPO said:

“The EU pelagic industry considers the amount of blue whiting to be transferred to Norway the most important aspect of the balance. The result should preferably improve on last year’s (when 31 500 tonnes was transferred), making use of other stocks of interest to Norway instead where possible, while at the same time taking into account that the exchange of quotas will always have to be a package deal. We ask the Commission and the Council to revisit the potential contribution to the balance of the southern blue whiting sub-TAC (WHB/8C3411), a contribution which again failed to materialise during the previous negotiations. Finally, newly requested access for Norwegian vessels to parts of EU waters (e.g. the ‘Irish Box’) should not be considered and only be offered in exchange for payment in fish and on the basis of a revised and limited transfer agreement.”

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EAPO issues its position paper ahead of Coastal States negotiations

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