European Commission exchange views with MEPs - Committee on Fisheries, European Parliament

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06 Dec

Mr João Aguiar Machado, Director-General of DG MARE exchanged views with the members of the Committee on Fisheries 27 November. Mr Machado outlined recent accomplishments achieved by the European Parliament including the approval of the first Multiannual management plans for the fisheries in the Baltic and the North Sea, and the new Data Collection Framework Regulation.

‘Withdrawal Agreement’ and ‘Political Declaration’ on the future relationship between the UK and the EU were endorsed by leaders at a special meeting of the European Council on 25 November 2018. Mr Machado focused on the potential scenario for the fisheries sector after Brexit. Along with the Withdrawal Agreement, UK and EU will also have to establish a new fisheries agreement on inter-alia existing access to waters and quota shares on over 100 quota stocks ideally by 1 July 2020.

Mr Machado argued that the transitional period will last until at least the 21st December 2020. Until then, access and quota share remain unchanged and the CFP rules will apply. Quotas for 2020 will be decided by the EU 27. The UK will be consulted. With regard to international negotiations the Commission will negotiate on behalf of EU 27 as well as UK.
After the 21st December 2020, in case the EU and the UK will not reach an agreement, two options are envisaged:
- either an extension of the Withdrawal Agreement for one or two more years, or
- the establishment of an interim customs union until a future agreement is reached.
In the latter case, the Political Declaration says that fisheries products will not be part of the Customs Union.

Mr Machado stressed that there is an urgent need to finalise the Fisheries Agreement on schedule in order to establish a mechanism to set the quotas for 2021. The EU and the UK share more than 95 fish stocks.

Recreational Angling and Brexit
EAA’s UK member ‘Angling Trust’ issued a news release in October about the UK Government’s ‘Fisheries Bill to take back control of UK waters’. The Angling Trust was pleased to see published the long awaited Fisheries Bill. The Trust welcomed the acknowledgement of recreational sea angling for the first time in UK legislation. However, the Trust was disappointed to see that proposals support the continuation of the existing system of allocating fishing quotas and doubted that the Bill will deliver the promised ‘Brexit Dividend’. Martin Salter, Head of Campaigns at the Angling Trust said:

“It’s abundantly clear that the Fisheries Bill has been rushed out this week to demonstrate that ministers have been addressing some of the future challenges and opportunities that will arise from the UK leaving the European Union. However, the disappointingly timid nature of this Bill as currently proposed means there is likely to be precious little by way of a Brexit dividend for either recreational sea angling or conservation. The failure to commit to reform the discredited quota system means that the privatisation of our publicly owned fish stocks continues as before. Leaving 29% of the UK’s fishing quota in the hands of just five rich families and around half of England’s quota in the hands of overseas interests is hardly ‘taking back control’.” He added: “Whilst we welcome the recognition of sea angling on the face of the Bill and the commitment to consider allocating ‘new fishing opportunities” and grants our sector, without major reform of commercial over fishing we fear that this might see anglers and conservationist scrabbling around for ‘a few fish flavoured crumbs’ after the harvesters have filled their nets.”

Bluefin tuna - A “Brexit Opportunity”
The Angling Trust sees a great opportunity for UK to develop a live-release Bluefin tuna recreational fishery after Brexit, which is difficult to achieve as long UK is a member of EU due to the way the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy works. Today, UK has no Bluefin tuna quota and therefore cannot establish a recreational fishery for this species, which is regulated under the international fisheries management body ICCAT (‘International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas’). UK would have to ask EU to allocate some of the EU Bluefin tuna quota to UK. After Brexit UK can ask ICCAT directly.

EAA comment:
In future we hope the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy will recognise recreational fisheries as a sector on equal terms with the commercial fisheries to make it possible that recreational angling can get its own tuna quota in all waters where the Bluefin tuna is present. Today, recreational angling can only fish for Bluefin tuna in waters where EU member states have tuna quota (Spain, France, Italy..). It is left to the discretion of these countries to decide how much of their quota they will allocate to recreational fishing/angling, which is not much (ca. 1%). The EU has a 16,000 tonnes quota, rising to over 19,000 tonnes by 2020. As the fish has returned to the Nordic waters - after having been absent for six decades - it seems fair to us to reserve a few tonnes of this 3,000 tonnes additional quota to recreational angling in UK, Denmark and Sweden. But the EU’s ‘static’ fisheries management system is not well geared to handle fairly changes in fish stock expansion and distribution patters. Something which will increasingly be a problem for EU as fish continuously will adapt to the heating of the sea waters by moving north across the borders. 

● Bluefin tuna: "Britain to bring back big game fishing?"; Article in ‘Tackle Trade World', Dec 2018 issue

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