Fish stocks will continue to be overexploited in EU waters, in part as a result of Brexit, after a decision on next year’s fishing quotas between EU countries failed to comply with scientific advice.
Fishing limits are expected to exceed scientific advice for about a third of EU fish stocks, after EU ministers met Thursday morning, and EU member states cited the uncertainty about fishing rights after Brexit as a reason to violate the limits of sustainable catches.
The Brexit-fueled dispute between EU ministers over fishing quotas in the Northeast Atlantic means that the EU’s goal of ending overfishing by 2020, set out in 2013 legislation, will now be lost.
This year was supposed to be when the “total allowable catches” of fish in EU waters would be established according to scientific advice for the first time in the history of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy. This was supposed to be when the wasteful practice of dumping healthy fish to die as discards was ended, and when fishing quotas would be set through long-term management plans rather than annual fights between ministers in Brussels.
Instead, EU ministers voted to renew at least a quarter of last year’s fishing quotas because they were shared with the UK, defying scientific advice. Annual disputes over fishing quotas will continue after Brexit.
Virginijus Sinkevičius, the EU commissioner for the environment, oceans and fisheries, described this year’s negotiations as “exceptionally challenging” but said progress was being made towards sustainable fisheries across the EU.
He said: “We have aligned eight total catches allowed with the levels that guarantee the maximum sustainable yields from those stocks. The EU ministers have followed my proposals on the precautionary approach for nine fish catch quotas. This is a step in the right direction. The commission’s proposal was very ambitious and I welcome today’s good overall result.
“We have also managed to respond to the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and ensure continued fishing for all fishermen and women in the EU. Ships can be put to sea on January 1, 2021 and the fishing industry can be sure that their business is recognized as a priority for the EU. “
Rebecca Hubbard, director of programs for Our Fish, a campaign organization, said: “Brexit has been the excuse that EU ministers have continued with overfishing. It is very bad for sustainable fishing ”.
Destructive practices such as bottom trawling will continue, and the management of important fisheries in the North Sea will continue to be subject to annual negotiations between the EU and UK ministers. Activists said these decisions would harm the EU’s fishing industries and fleets in the long term.
“Unfortunately, today’s result shows how far the EU member states are from fulfilling their promises to their citizens, including our children, who will inherit the legacy of their decisions,” said Hubbard. “The EU fisheries ministers voluntarily lock themselves into this abusive cycle that does not help anyone, not the fish, the ocean, the climate or the fishermen.”
The ministers agreed on catches higher than those recommended by scientific opinions for exclusive EU stocks, not affected by Brexit, such as pollock and sole in the Bay of Biscay.
The EU has also set limits for stocks shared with the UK to allow fishing to continue in the first three months of 2021, with that quota to be distributed among EU member states according to the existing pattern of “stability. relative “. Scientists had advised a 17% cut in most catches by 2021.
Activists said this violated EU rules on aligning fishing with scientific advice for 2020, but that future years could be better managed.
Andrew Clayton of Oceana, a campaign group, said: “While it is smaller in scope than the usual December council decisions due to the uncertainty surrounding shared actions, the result suggests that the commission is making some progress to improve management in 2021, but ministers are still opting for various catch limits above scientific advice. When full limits are finally agreed for the stocks shared with the UK and Norway, it is vitally important that the science on sustainable fishing is followed.. “
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