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EAPO issues pelagic industry position paper on fishing opportunities 2024 and the upcoming NE Atlantic Coastal States negotiations

The European Association of Fish Producers Organisations (EAPO) has laid out its position to the European Commission on fishing opportunities 2024 and the coastal states negotiations.

In its position paper, the EAPO stands with Ireland’s position over the granting of access to the “Irish Box” for the Norwegian pelagic fleet wanting to fish blue whiting there saying, it “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.”

The position paper goes on to say, “Payment should also be required for access to EU waters going beyond the level established pre-Brexit.”

MAIN POINTS:
  • Strong EU action required against other Coastal States’ excessive, unjustified unilateral quota and resulting overfishing;
  • Highest priority should be given to reaching agreement on all-party sharing arrangements for mackerel, blue whiting and Atlanto-Scandian herring, based on genuine historic track records and interest as opposed to a flawed, one-dimensional zonal attachment concept;
  • Support for the TACs advised by ICES for mackerel (-5%, 739 386 tonnes), blue whiting (+12.5%, 1 529 754 tonnes), Atlanto-Scandian herring (-24%, 390.010 tonnes), North Sea herring (+28.3%, 532 166), North Sea horse mackerel (+8.5%, 9 730 tonnes) and greater silversmelt (+3.6%, 17 695 tonnes);
  • For Western horse mackerel, set a provisional TAC in light of the upcoming benchmark, and explore alternatives to a zero-catch TAC, considering the long-term viability of the fishery and associated fisheries and the limited impact these options would have on future spawning biomass levels;
  • The 2024 EU-Norway bilateral agreement should contain a strongly reduced input of the EU’s blue whiting and restored full access for the EU to fish Atlanto-Scandian herring in Norwegian waters.

In the position paper, on the total allowable catch for Northeast Atlantic mackerel it states:

“The EU pelagic industry wants to follow the ICES advice of -5% (739 386 tonnes) and supports all other recommendations by the Pelagic Advisory Council (PelAC) for this stock. As in previous years, 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, unjustified unilateral quotas set by other Parties.”

On the total allowable catch for blue whiting the position paper states:

“The EU pelagic industry wants to follow the ICES advice +12.5% (TAC of 1 529 754 tonnes) and supports all other recommendations by the PelAC for this stock. The industry is happy to see that, as predicted, spawning biomass remains at some of the highest levels ever and the strong 2021 and 2022 recruitment is still having its effect.”

On the total allowable catch for Atlanto-Scandian herring it states:

“The EU pelagic industry is concerned about the recent downward trajectory of the ICES advice for this stock, with another -24% (390 010 tonnes) following last year’s -15%. This being based on a management plan with a stable assessment model and considering the absence of good year classes after 2016, the industry sees no other option than to follow the advice. The industry supports the recommendations by the PelAC. As with mackerel, an overshoot of the fishing opportunities of around 40% is the main culprit here and those responsible should be actively pressed to change their behaviour.”

On EU-UK-Norway / North Sea herring the EAPO states:

“The EU pelagic industry wants to follow the ICES advice of a TAC of 532 166 tonnes, based on the MSY approach in absence of a long-term management strategy agreed among the three Coastal States concerned, as well as the recommendations by the PelAC. The advised TAC represents a 28.3% increase compared to the previous advice and a 31.8% increase compared to the 2023 TAC, which was set lower than the advice. Of note is the fact that both spawning biomass and recruitment in 2022 are now estimated to be significantly larger (87.3% and 32.6% respectively).”

On the total allowable catch for North Sea horse mackerel:

“The EU pelagic industry wants to follow the ICES advice of +8.5% (9 730 tonnes), as well as the recommendations by the PelAC. This TAC would be set for 2024 as well as 2025, but in the context of the 2024 benchmark for all three horse mackerel stocks and its possible consequences for stock evaluation, the managing Parties should agree on the option of revising the TAC following that benchmark. The industry also advocates the continuation of ongoing horse mackerel genetic stock-ID research, to which it heavily contributes (see under ‘Western horse mackerel’). Although this is a relatively small stock, its value is of even more importance than usual in light of the situation of the Western horse mackerel.”

On Greater silversmelt the position papers says:

“The EU pelagic industry can support the ICES advice of 17 695 (+3.6% compared to the previous advice, -3.4% compared to the 2022 assumed catch), as well as the recommendations by the PelAC and the NWWAC. Since 2016, unilateral quotas have been set by the Faroe Islands and EU/UK separately, and the sum exceeds the recommended catches. The industry calls on the EU Commission and the Council to prevent overfishing and to reach an agreement on the sharing of this stock.”

Finally on the EU-Norway / exchange of quotas and access (‘balance’) the EAPO states:

The EU pelagic industry considers the amount of blue whiting to be transferred to Norway the most important aspect of the balance. The pelagic industry does not benefit from this contribution, while at the same time a competitor is allowed to fish the transferred quota in EU waters. Last year’s result, when 74 000 tonnes was transferred, went miles beyond the acceptable limits. While very much aware that the exchange of quotas and access will always have to be a package deal, as little blue whiting as possible should be contributed in the upcoming exchange. Where possible, other stocks of interest to Norway should be used. 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. Also, the overall size of the balance should be carefully considered in light of the ICES advice for the relevant stocks.

Access for the EU to Norwegian waters to fish Atlanto-Scandian herring must be restored to 100% of the quota. 2023’s cut by some 15% means a loss of access that was paid for with part of the EU’s quota share in 2007. This decreased access in the current year should also be compensated in quota.

Finally, new 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. Payment should also be required for access to EU waters going beyond the level established pre-Brexit.

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