This was a different kind of December Council in a number of important ways. Many delegations were delayed by weather; UK fisheries Minister George Eustice returned early to London to participate in a crucial parliamentary vote; and we felt the sharp end of the EU’s inflexible approach to maximum sustainable yield. The Commission was in fact particularly intransigent throughout the negotiations. It also seemed to forget that the centrepiece of its policies is the landing obligation that fully comes into force on 1st January 2019 and that all TAC decisions ought to support, rather than undermine, that particular policy - which is going to be difficult enough to implement as it is.
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A strong NFFO team is present in Brussels for the December Council, which begins today in Brussels. The Commission has made seabass a central issue for the Council, by proposing an even blunter approach than currently exists, with the prospect of even larger levels of discards of bass caught as unavoidable bycatch in the mixed fisheries.
During the annual EU/Norway negotiations, this year in Bergen, the Norwegian delegation gave a presentation of its preliminary views on the type of joint management arrangements for the North Sea that it thinks will be necessary to accommodate the UK as an independent coastal state after March 2019.
The EU and Norway delegations paused in their negotiations in Bergen for an annual reciprocal fisheries agreement, to mark the 40 year anniversary of the talks.
There are deep concerns within the fishing industry that an impasse between the European member states and EU Parliament over technical conservation rules, will leave fishermen in the wheelhouse, or on the deck, in an impossible position of having to obey two conflicting rules. This is potentially important for our fleets in the UK, because constraints on Parliamentary time in Westminster could mean that EU technical conservation rules retained from the CFP could be with us for some time after the UK leaves the EU in March 2019.
Whilst the Exit talks in Brussels judder forward, on both sides there is a great deal of activity taking place just below the surface. As might be expected, the NFFO is fully engaged in building the conditions for a positive outcome for the UK fishing industry. Our activities were reported to our AGM, on 11th October, where the UK Fisheries Minister also confirmed Defra’s commitment to a clear but smooth departure from the EU and therefore, legally and logically, the Common Fisheries Policy.
The MMO has initiated a series of roadshows to increase the industry’s awareness of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and to encourage grant applications from working fishermen. The date, time and venue of the next round of roadshows is below.
Salmon fishermen on the Northumberland, Durham and Yorkshire coast again face a period of great uncertainty as regard to their future. The issue now is a perceived problem with global salmon stocks which is being politically manipulated into an attempted closure of all these fisheries for motives that have absolutely nothing to do with conservation. It is all about “Who gets the fish”.
The NFFO has welcomed new funding for projects to support Irish Sea fishing communities. The funding is a mark of the good co-operation that currently exists between the fishing communities that operate in and around the Walney Extension offshore wind farm and the owners of the wind farm, Ørsted (formerly known as DONG Energy).
It is fair to say that impact on safety of fishing vessels at sea has not generally been to the forefront when Government has contemplated new fisheries legislation. In retrospect, however, it has been possible to discern that management measures can carry with them direct and significant adverse safety implications, as an unintended consequence of those decisions. In particular, we have seen the size and shape of fishing vessels change, and vessels used for purposes that they were not designed for, in the wake of, and to adapt to new legislation. This note is a plea for safety considerations to be an integral part of the process of designing fisheries management measures, not an afterthought.