Talks get underway

Crucial talks between the EU and Norway to finalise the catching opportunities in 2013 for shared stocks get underway at Clonakilty in County Cork, Ireland, today (Tuesday).

It wasn’t possible to reach a quota agreement on these shared stocks at a meeting at the end of last year between the EU and Norway because of legal red tape surrounding the EU’s Cod Plan.

The plan had threatened further automatic cuts in days at sea and a 20% reduction in the North Sea cod quota, despite the stock showing encouraging signs of recovery. However, this hurdle was removed by EU fisheries ministers just before Christmas.

According to Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, it is now vital that the Scottish and UK negotiating teams at the EU-Norway talks ensure that last year’s cod quota is rolled over into 2013. Since 2008, the spawning stock biomass of North Sea cod has doubled.

“It is imperative that the status quo is maintained on the North Sea cod quota,” he said.

“The science clearly indicates that the cod stock is recovering and cutting the quota would simply lead to increased discarding because of the good quantities of fish that fishermen are encountering.”

For the North Sea, advice based on the EU-Norway management plan is recommending increases in quota for North Sea haddock, whiting, saithe and herring.

The scientific advice for all these stocks subject to the EU-Norway Management Plan indicates that they are in a good state and being fished sustainably.

However, one cloud hanging over the talks will be the quota allocations for mackerel, given the massive over-fishing of this stock by Iceland and the Faroes.

Mr Armstrong said: “One of our main priorities at this week’s EU-Norway fisheries negotiations is to ensure that there is a sensible allocation of mackerel and that there is no move to adjust the quota so as to pander to the grossly irresponsible over-fishing of mackerel by Iceland and the Faroes.

“It would be perverse if our fleet, which has adopted sustainable fishing practices within an international management plan, was to suffer because of the piratical actions of other nations.”