The UK-EU fisheries agreement on key shared stocks for 2023 opens up £150m worth of fishing opportunities for the Scottish fishing fleet

The UK-EU fisheries agreement on key shared stocks for 2023 opens up £150m worth of fishing opportunities for the Scottish fishing fleet

UK-EU negotiations concluded with agreement on key shared stocks in the North Sea and West of Scotland, as well as other coastal waters around the UK, with an estimated value of £149.6 million to Scotland.

Among the stocks covered by this agreement are North Sea and West of Scotland nephrops, hake, monkfish and ling, as well as Rockall haddock and cod and West of Scotland whiting and cod.

This year parties also took the decision to remove Spurdog from its prohibited species list following positive scientific advice from the International Committee for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES). The UK will take forward appropriate legislation in the New Year.

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Negotiations took place over November and early December 2022. Both parties acknowledged the importance of responsible and sustainable management of the stocks under discussion and the need to achieve agreement before the end of the calendar year to give certainty to fishermen for 2023.

A full list of stocks will be available in the Written Record (WR) from page 18 which sets out Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and related management measures for stocks of key importance to the Scottish industry, including monkfish, hake and ling.

“The jointly-managed TACs in the WR have been set at sustainable levels, taking into account advice from the ICES. In some cases, a TAC restraint has been applied to manage the large increases and decreases found in the scientific advice (which could negatively impact the industry and the markets). Where it has been applied, this incremental approach moves stocks closer to Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) while avoiding significant fluctuations in TACs which would be economically damaging,” says Marine Scotland.

As part of these negotiations the UK and EU reach decisions on the TACS for over 70 stocks.

Scottish Fishermen’s Federation on the UK-EU fisheries agreement

SFF chief executive Elspeth Macdonald said: “We are pleased that the UK and EU have reached agreement on fishing opportunities for 2023. Crucially, between this agreement and the one reached with Norway earlier this month, our negotiators have managed to mitigate the impact of ICES’s over-precautionary catch advice from ICES on monkfish that industry considers to be unjustified. Monkfish was Scotland’s most valuable demersal species in 2021, and a 30% reduction would have been hugely damaging for our whitefish fleet.

“Outcomes on other key demersal species for the Scottish fleet are positive and we also look forward in 2023 to a full review of the North Sea cod assessment through the ICES benchmark process, and to a future where fishermen’s knowledge and expertise can play a meaningful role in stock assessments and catch advice.

“In addition to the good outcomes from negotiations for next year, talks will continue into 2023 with North East Atlantic coastal states on longer term sharing arrangements for a number of our pelagic stocks, and the outcome of these talks will be very important for the longer term.

“It is still regrettable however that the UK doesn’t have the same relationship with the EU on fishing as any other independent coastal state has, and we remain constrained by the Brexit deal on fisheries that leaves us unable to control access to our waters.

“This has been a very busy spell for our negotiating teams from Scottish and UK governments, and we are grateful for their sustained efforts to secure good outcomes for the Scottish industry, and for taking industry’s views and knowledge into account in their negotiations.”

Shetland Fishermen’s Association on the UK-EU fisheries agreement

Reacting to the fisheries agreement reached between the UK and the EU for 2023, SFA executive officer Simon Collins said:

“Of all the fish stocks included in this complex deal, monkfish was by far the biggest challenge – with a proposed 30% quota cut to that valuable species.

“This made no sense to our members or the wider Scottish industry. Ministers agreed to prioritise monkfish, and – justified through scientific evidence provided by fishermen –negotiated a less extreme reduction. The impact on crews will also be mitigated further through international transfers and other management measures.”

“However, we should never have faced a 30% cut to monkfish quotas in the first place. That figure was based on uncertain stock assessment results disrupted by survey vessel breakdown and COVID-19. Our members are ready to assist with future government stock surveys to ensure sustainable and dependable results.”

“Fishermen have been vindicated over North Sea cod quotas, and are sure they will be vindicated again when scientific recommendations for monkfish catch up to reality. People should understand that no one has a greater interest in sustainable fishing than the fishermen and the communities whose futures depend upon it.”

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UK-EU fisheries agreement 2023 worth £150m to Scottish fleet

by editor time to read: 7 min