The Danish Fisheries Association claim this week’s EU annual fishing quota negotiations are difficult & marked by great uncertainty due to Brexit. Photo: DFPO
15-16 December, EU negotiations on fishing quotas in the North Sea and Skagerrak for 2021. The negotiations are difficult and marked by great uncertainty due to Brexit. Many Danish jobs are at stake, and Danish fisheries fear the disaster that lurks ahead, writes the Danish Fisheries Association.
In the next two days, fisheries ministers from all EU countries will gather for a council meeting to negotiate fishing quotas for the North Sea and Skagerrak in place in 2021. It is a traditional event that is part of the Christmas bustle. This year, however, it is something very special. The backdrop for the negotiations is the unresolved Brexit crisis, which has a major impact on how many fish Danish fishermen are allowed to catch in the North Sea from New Year. Overall, this means that uncertainty is maximum, and fishing is therefore facing an uncertain future.
“The annual quota negotiations tend to be dramatic. But this surpasses anything I have experienced so far. It is impossible to predict what consequences this will have for fishing and for the many people employed in the secondary occupations. There are many Danish jobs at stake, and the situation is very worrying, says the chairman of the Danish Fisheries Association,” Svend-Erik Andersen.
Specifically, EU ministers, including Denmark’s new fisheries minister, Rasmus Prehn, will discuss a proposal from the EU Commission, which will only decide on fishing opportunities in the first three months of the year. The fishing opportunities are usually discussed for a whole year at a time, but due to the uncertainties created by Brexit, the fishing opportunities are only negotiated for the first three months. The uncertainties are primarily that it is unclear whether EU fishermen will have access to British and Norwegian waters. Without access to the waters, fishermen are in a very problematic situation, as they are deeply dependent on being able to fish here.
The fishing quotas for 2021 are set on the basis of scientific recommendations. For the vast majority of species, the quotas in the first three months are set as 25 percent of the total quota for the whole of 2020. In Danish fisheries, there is an understanding that right now it is the art of the possible, but at the same time calls for long-term solutions. It should also be pointed out that not all fisheries are evenly distributed over the year, and it is therefore urgent for fishermen to have a final agreement so that they can plan their activity.
“Basically, we in Danish fisheries are concerned that the quotas are set at sustainable levels, where fish stocks and fishing can both develop. In this case, we understand it is a difficult situation. We would like some more long-term solutions so that fishing can be better planned. That is why we call for a solution to Brexit as soon as possible. It is crucial for the fishery and for the 16,000 people who are employed in the fishery,” says Svend-Erik Andersen.
In the specific negotiations, the Danish Fisheries Association has a special focus on the cod quota, as it is of great importance to Danish fishing. At the same time, the Danish Fisheries Association has turned its eyes to the quota for plaice and Norway lobster, where the Danish Fisheries Association wants a lower quota than that provided for in the biological advice.
“It is important that the size of the quotas reflects both the scientific advice and the fishing experience itself. We believe that the biological advice is too positive with regard to plaice in the North Sea and Norway lobster in the Skagerrak, and on that basis we risk having the quotas set too high in relation to the stock situation, and therefore call for a lower quota. As far as the cod quota is concerned, we are concerned here that the management corresponds with the reality that the fishermen experience, and that the stock is rebuilt on the basis of the biological advice,” concludes Svend-Erik Andersen, chairman of the Danish Fisheries Association.