Annual round of EU fisheries negotiations beginning of a different era Published: 11 December, 2009
With the vital December Fisheries Council beginning this Monday that will finalise the catching opportunities for the fleet in 2010, the Scottish Fishermens Federation is calling upon the EC to begin to place its trust in the fishing industry and government to develop and implement locally controlled fisheries management measures.
While this years December Council of Ministers will consider and set TACS (total allowable catches) and quotas as usual, accompanying technical measures and rules are no longer permitted. This marked difference from previous years has come about following ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, with the result that the European parliament is now being brought into a separate decision-making process for all matters other than TACs and quotas.
This means that detailed technical arrangements will now have to go before the European parliament for agreement – and while it will make the process more democratic, it will also lead to longer negotiation.
This will leave next weeks EC Council meeting with fewer options to consider than in the past, with the setting of TACS (total allowable catches) being the main area up for decision.
Against this new background, the SFF believes it is now more essential than ever for the Common Fisheries Policy to be decentralised during the reform process, which is in its early stages, including carefully tailored arrangements for migratory pelagic stocks.
Bertie Armstrong, SFF chief executive, says the post-Lisbon arrangements should point the way towards regional management, enabling effective decisions to be taken on a local scale.
He said: ‘One possible result of the Lisbon Treaty is to make it very difficult to continue the old way of approaching fisheries regulation centrally controlled micro-management, which may force a move towards decentralisation.
‘Using whatever comes out of this years negotiations as a starting point, it should be in the hands of government and industry to demonstrate that we are capable of implementing regional management measures, which because they are responding to local conditions, will be much more effective than the broad-brush approach of before.’
As far as quotas for next year are concerned, following scientific advice, North Sea cod is in line for an increase, while west coast cod is facing a 25 per cent cut. North Sea haddock is expecting 15 per cent reduction as part of its long-term management plan, and west coast haddock is also facing a significant cut. For the important prawn (langoustine) fishery, a cut of 7 per cent is the initial proposal for the North Sea, with a reduction of 15 per cent for the West coast. Overall totals of days at sea will be reduced by an anticipated 10 per cent in the North Sea and 25 per cent in the West of Scotland.
‘This will present a serious management challenge for the fleets affected by days-at-sea in 2010,’ said Mr Armstrong.
A further complication has arisen in that the package of talks between the EU, Faeroes and Norway to set TACS and other management arrangements for jointly managed stocks has not yet reached agreement, which would normally have happened by this stage.
These talks will now run on into the early part of the New Year when agreement should be achieved. Interim arrangements will be put in place to allow fishing to continue in the meantime. Mr Armstrong said: ‘Remembering that this is a negotiation, the correct course of action next week must be the insistence of ensuring an equitable outcome. Achieving the right result for the Scottish industry is much more important than bowing to time pressure that will inevitably result in a set of totally unsatisfactory measures.
‘This years December Council will mark the start of a new way of doing business. It is vital that the Scottish and UK government achieve a balanced deal in these difficult circumstances.’