Jim Portus, the CEO of the South Western Fish Producers Organisation (SWFPO) based in Devon, gives his reaction to the outcome of the December Fisheries Council meeting which took place between December 16 & 17 last.
Twelve-months ago the industry attended what they then thought would be the last of the lobbying events under the Common Fisheries Policy, having been told we’d leave the EU at the end of March 2019.
Fast forward to this month and the delegates set off to Brussels on Sunday 15th for yet another round of fish quota talks as the UK enters its final phase as a Member State.
George Eustice is still the Fisheries Minister having kept his seat at the election last week.
He led a strong, well prepared team, but the EC Fisheries Commission was in no mood for many compromises.
There were tough and prolonged talks about Celtic Sea Cod and Sea Bass, both important stocks for Channel and west fishermen. In the end the Cod quota was slashed in half and trawl nets will have to be modified to limit the size and tonnage of Cod taken from the English and Bristol Channels.
Bass fishermen have been under really tight restrictions for a number of years and the stock is recovering. However, the brakes cannot be lifted yet and strict catch limits and seasonal closures will again apply. Recreational anglers won their campaign to increase their take home catch, doubling from one fish to 2 per day. The total catch will be limited and the fishery will be closed if the higher mortality rate again threatens the stock with collapse.
For members of South Western FPO, their shares of 25 stocks are being reduced while the other 32 stocks of interest stay the same or are being increased. Notable bonuses are of stocks of Dover Sole which are doing well under a strict sustainable fisheries management regime. 215 tonnes more will be available to catch worth an estimated extra £3 millions to the economy of Brixham.
Although the Channel Plaice stock is being cut by 12% initially, the EC Commission has promised a full scientific review of the science of this popular fishery. It is hoped the quota will be increased during the coming year.
The SW Sprats Fishermen’s Association will be very disappointed with a deep cut of 43% from their already diminished quotas. The SWSFA lobbied hard and presented new evidence that the stock is not as depleted as previously feared, but a full assessment could not be done in time to influence the quota decision. There is genuine concern that Channel Sprats could soon be off the menu for the Penguins of Paignton Zoo and Living Coasts.