THE National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations has said that EU ministers this week managed to strike a balance between ensuring fishing livelihoods were protected, while continuing to rebuild fish stocks.
The NFFO, which represents English, Welsh and Northern Ireland fishermen, said despite pressure from environmental lobby groups, ministers took advantage of the flexibilities provided for them by the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), to reduce proposed cuts on a number of major commercial species.
Celtic Sea Haddock’s cut was reduced from 41 per cent to 12 per cent, while the cut of Celtic Sea cod was reduced from a proposed 64 per cent to 26 per cent. Eastern Channel sole still faced a cut of 28 per cent, mitigated from -60 per cent.
The decisions were made at the annual December Council meeting in Brussels, where representatives of the UK fishing industry, reflecting the diversity of the UK fleet, worked closely with the fisheries minister throughout negotiations.
It said the decision comes at a time when the industry already faces pressure due to quota species needing to meet the gold standard of sustainability measurements, called ‘maximum sustainable yield’ put in place as a legal obligation by the 2013 reform to the common fisheries policy.
The devastating consequences of getting these decisions wrong was seen during the course of this year with the effective closure of the Bristol Channel fisheries which saw the displacement of the larger vessels, the need to tie-up smaller boats and the closure of the main fish processor with consequent loss of jobs.
The North Devon Fishermen’s Association, one of the most active fishermen’s groups in the country, also faces closer due to the near collapse of the local industry.
NFFO chief executive, Barrie Deas, said: ‘Inevitably, the decisions made by ministers have been seen as a test between competing visions: strict adherence to the principles agreed in the 2013 CFP reform, versus a more pragmatic approach, which pays due attention to the socio-economic consequences of severe quota reductions.
‘We were determined to get the balance right between continuing to move steadily towards high-yield fisheries, whilst safeguarding the livelihoods of fishermen and the resilience of fishing communities and are pleased these priorities are reflected in the outcome.
‘The Council certainly demonstrated it was prepared to put livelihoods before political dogma masquerading as science.
‘There were always going to be winners and losers and some of the cuts will still have major impacts on fishing businesses and communities around the country but we are relieved that, for the time being, ministers have listened to our call to protect an industry that provides livelihoods to so many and such a valuable, sustainable food source to our island nation.
‘A phased ban on discarding of unwanted or over-quota fish begins from 1 January 2015 and this transition will be a major challenge for fishermen and the management systems.’