Much at stake in looming catch talks, says NFFO –

Much at stake in looming catch talks, says NFFO Published:  24 October, 2012

WITH the annual round of European catch quota talks looming and the usual rows that precede it, the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations has cautioned the industry against being too dismissive.

It says that in the sometimes fractious exchanges within the fishing industry about quota shares, sight is sometimes lost of the big picture: the Total Allowable Catches or TACs as they are commonly called.

“Squabbling about the size of one’s share of the cake can distract attention from the size of the overall cake; and the size of the cake, in the form of TACs, may be of much greater significance than the domestic share out to the fishing opportunities available, and therefore the economic viability, of individual fishing vessels,” says the Federation.  “There have been enormous changes in TACs over the last 20 years, both in downward and upward directions. Although an increasing number of quotas are agreed within the framework of multi-annual management plans, the late-night decisions during the December Council of Ministers will still, this year, determine the outlook for a number of important UK fisheries over the next 12 months.

“What is different from the past’s sudden death decisions by ministers on the basis of a proposal from the Commission, is that the process and run-up for deciding TACs now extends over most of the preceding year, if not a number of years. The Federation is involved every stage.” After explaining at length how the process operates and the various issues at stake  (see the NFFO said it will field a balanced team in Brussels to ensure that all its members interests are covered in the areas comprising:-

    Irish Sea    Celtic Sea    Channel    North Sea    West of Scotland    Pelagic    External Waters

A pre-council meeting is held with the UK Fisheries Minister to underline and clarify the NFFO’s priorities and concerns and the Minister consults the Federation, as necessary, through the Council. Contact is maintained with officials on a regular basis through the two, or sometimes three, days and nights of the Council negotiations.

Eventually the Council will diminish in significance as more stocks come under agreed long term management plans. For now the December Council remains critically important. This year key decisions will be made on:

Whether automatic, pre-programmed reductions in days-at-sea will be continued. The EU Cod Management plan has been evaluated and found to be fundamentally flawed and the Commission’s Co-decision Proposal for change lies with the Co-legislators.How to move in the direction of reducing discards in mixed fisheriesHow data poor stocks shall be treated for TAC purposesWhere the appropriate balance between rebuilding stocks and the economic viability of the fleets should be struckWhether or not new TACs covering additional stocks should be added and if so on what terms

“These decisions will have significant implications for many of our members and that is the reason why the NFFO puts so much effort into the December Council outcomes throughout the year.”

It also warns against media hype in the run up to agreements and NGOs using it to launch a wave of initiatives of lesser or greater relevance. When the talks are over the Federations enters a new year in intense discussions as how the new catch levels should be implemented.