The outcomes of this year’s December Council in Brussels bring mixed fortunes for Cornish fishermen, according to CFPO chief executive Paul Trebilcock.
‘For the twelve months before the Council and throughout the negotiations themselves, the CFPO, working with the NFFO, liaised closely with CEFAS, DEFRA officials and the UK minister to ensure that the scientific, economic and community based arguments were well understood in an effort to deliver the best possible deal for our members,’ he said.
‘Although a small increase in the cod TAC (9%) was achieved, nothing should take away from the significant problems the wholly unnecessary reductions in the haddock TAC (11%) and whiting TAC (19%) represent.’
Paul Trebilcock commented that throughout the negotiations, the European Commission rejected ICES evaluated scientific advice based on mixed fishery maximum sustainable yield (MSY) range, preferring instead to prioritise an arbitrary timetable towards achieving MSY.
‘The option was available to continue progress towards MSY in the mixed fisheries of the South West, while simultaneously reducing discards in the year before the full implementation of the landings obligation. Bizarrely, the Commission chose to ignored the realities of our ultra-mixed fisheries and aided and abetted by the NGOs went for the option which can only lead to a significant increase discards in 2018,’ he said.
‘It is certainly true be that the cuts in haddock and whiting were not as large as originally proposed but ultimately this was a missed opportunity to harness the industry’s support and engagement to build the stocks and reduce the level of discards in these complex fisheries.’
He said that the DEFRA delegation argued long and hard for the mixed fishery MSY range advice (supplemented and supported by work done by CFPO members working with Cefas during 2017) to be used.
‘But the Commission were from the beginning completely intransigent, obsessed with adding to the number of stocks under MSY. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that this Council illustrates everything that is bad about the CFP decision-making process,’ he said.
‘Cuts in the 2018 TAC for hake and megrim were driven by single stock MSY advice. Although the cut for hake was mitigated (from 19% to 7%) it was not possible to make any further progress on these stocks. This will have a negative impact for South-West fishermen, particularly those working from Newlyn.’
Positive outcomes were for Bristol Channel sole (7.fg), up 9% and and Western Channel sole (7.e), up 2%,and a rollover of the 7.hjk sole TAC. Increased quotas were also secured for plaice in the Bristol Channel and English Channel, plus a rollover secured for 7.hjk plaice, instead of the the Commission’s initial zero TAC proposal.
‘The ray TAC in area 7 saw a welcome overall increase of 15%, although specific small-eyed ray restrictions remained in place that are problematic. A rollover in the TACs for ICES area 7 pollack, saithe, ling and monkfish were all welcomed,’ he said and commented that the Commission’s approach on bass is difficult to understand.
‘In the South-West’s mixed trawl fisheries where bass are taken as an unavoidable by-catch, the Commission have chosen to ratchet down the by-catch provision,’ he said.
‘The only possible outcome will to be increase dead discards with no effect on bass mortality. Surely this approach represents the exact opposite of sound fisheries management and it is difficult to understand the logic of an approach that will only increase discards,’ Paul Trebilcock said and added that a promised review of the science on bass during the first part of 2018 offers some hope that the measures agreed can be subsequently amended. ‘Hopefully a more sensible and practical approach can be introduced then,’ he said.
‘Although the overall package for the south-west fisheries was a mixed package in terms of TAC increases and reductions, the way the negotiations were conducted, and the outcomes on the Celtic mixed fisheries and bass, will do nothing but convince the vast majority that the sooner we can leave the CFP, and its dysfunctional way of reaching management decisions, the better.’