European fishing operators, represented by Europêche, have warned of the danger of some states setting unilateral quotas for this year’s fishery that are excessive.
Despite intensified efforts during February and March, Coastal States again failed to successfully reach an agreement on a division of fishing opportunities for the Northeast Atlantic mackerel fishery.
Europêche warns that with talks not being resumed before the end of September, there is a risk of some parties again setting excessive unilateral quotas – which would lead to another year of catches exceeding the TAC that has been set in line with scientific advice. European operators are urging the European Commission and Council to take concrete action and make use of the tools at their disposal, such as select trade measures.
The Coastal States had set a deadline of 31st March 2023 to reach an agreement on the allocation of Northeast Atlantic mackerel quotas. Three further rounds of consultations during the months of February and March in London and Nuuk resulted in no agreement, and a decision to suspend talks until the end of September, with the position of Chair moving from the UK to Iceland.
‘Unfortunately, in these negotiations there seems to be a distinct lack of constructive diplomacy, with tactics of antagonising predominating over relationship building. While we commend the efforts of the European Commission on behalf of the EU, it is our understanding that other parties did not want to engage in a final push towards a deal, leading to a premature end of the final round in the last week of March,’ said Tim Heddema, speaking for the EU pelagic sector.
‘We’ve seen parties act in an almost Trumpian way, overasking significantly while accusing others of being too ambitious. It also appears difficult to exclude the flawed, one-dimensional criterion of zonal attachment, promoted by some Coastal States, from the discussions.’
He said that in the absence of an agreement, the EU industry is calling on those parties that have in recent years set inflated quotas for themselves not to repeat this unsustainable and unacceptable behaviour – while also seeking assurances from the EU Commission and Council that there will be decisive action if such a situation occurs, for example by using Europe’s power as the main market for the other Coastal States’ seafood exports.
‘The concerns of other stakeholders such as processors, retail and sustainable fisheries certifiers are legitimate. They would however do well to recognise the responsible fishing behaviour of the EU and the UK, who have stuck to the shares agreed in 2014 by the main Coastal States,’ Tim Heddema said.
‘This has been a factor in the resilience of the stock, which in scientific terms has suffered overfishing but is not overfished, meaning biomass is still within safe limits. What we need now is an all-inclusive agreement, between all six Coastal States, respecting real track records, not those artificially and irresponsibly increased. Any more delay will heavily affect the fishing opportunities and market position of EU fishers,’ he said, adding that the ‘EU industry will continue to fish sustainably and to engage with all involved, to help protect this valuable resource.’