EAPO has written to the Director-General of DG MARE, urging the Commission not to back down on the Svalbard cod quota negotiations
The European Association of Fish Producers Organisations (EAPO) has written to the Director-General of DG MARE, Charlina Vitcheva on the issue of coastal state negotiations with Norway and the UK.
One of the major concerns for the EAPO is the Norwegians decision to cut cod quota from the EU fleet in the Svalbard zone. The decrease in quota if accepted by the EU would mean a loss of €800 million to the EU fishing industry over the next 20 years. They pressed the Director-General to seek to ensure that the fleet retains the quota.
The EU and Norway are currently in a stand-off after the EU allocated 28,431 tonnes of cod to the EU fleet in 2021 pre-bilateral talks. The Norwegians have called this “unacceptable behaviour” and are offering the EU 24,233 tonnes, 10,631 tonnes less than the TAC for 2020, which was 34,864 tonnes. This makes the EU’s cut of the cod quota 37% causing EU fisheries organisations to claim that Norway has no legal basis for this cut.
The EU has awarded Spain 13,085 tonnes, Germany 6,482 tonnes, France 3,060 tonnes, Poland 2,693 tonnes, Portugal 2,627 tonnes and 484 between the other Member States.
The UK will be awarded 4,323 tonnes for their distant-water fleet and this will make a combined total of 32,754 tonnes if Norway accepts the EU quota.
Otherwise, if the EU accepts the Norwegian allocation of 24,333 tonnes, it will mean the combined TAC for the Svalbard region for the UK and the EU would be 28,556 tonnes; down 6,308 tonnes overall.
In their letter to the Director-General, the EAPO President Pim Visser writes:
“The bilateral and trilateral negotiations with the UK and Norway are taking place at the moment. Following Brexit, these negotiations are now the most important ones for European fisheries, critically defining 2021 for dozens of fish stocks and fishing communities depending on them. These negotiations have become increasingly complicated because of the extensive number of stocks covered, the economic importance of the species and the novel nature of the talks with the UK as an independent coastal State. The priorities of these negotiations are manyfold.
Firstly, timeliness. In order not to stop all activities, provisional (unilateral) quotas have been put in place for the first 3 months of 2021. The fisheries sector is now concerned that negotiations might last for a long time and might not allow for TACs to be agreed and implemented before the deadline of the 31st of March 2021. This would bring EU fishing activity to a standstill in areas relying heavily on shared stocks, jeopardising the viability of the activity. Therefore, EAPO calls on the Commission to prepare in time for setting unilaterally additional fishing opportunities for the remainder of 2021 in case the negotiations do not allow to reach an agreement in time.
Secondly, the management measures agreed to by the UK will need to be science-based, nondiscriminatory and proportionate to the management objective pursued. And, surely, must go through a consultation phase with stakeholders before implementation.
Thirdly, the EU-Norway negotiations must result in a bilateral agreement including quotas and access for fishers to be able to continue their usual activity.
Furthermore, the unilateral decision by Norway to decrease the share for the EU in the Svalbard cod quota for 2021 is unacceptable. As explained in our previous letter of January 11, 2021, this move has no legal basis under international law and the Svalbard Paris Treaty. If left unchallenged, it will cost the EU fishing industry €800 million over the next 20 years.
The EU must seek to retain their quota allocation based on historical track records in the Svalbard zone. We trust that the Commission is working to prepare for any contingency plan needed and strives to have all these points taken into account in the negotiations.”