BBC Today Programme: Ministers must put fishing businesses and livelihoods ahead of MSY dogma: NFFO

15th December 2014 in TACs and Quotas

Ahead of the December Council of Fisheries Ministers, which begins today in Brussels, the NFFO has made the fishing industry case to the BBC political flagship Today Programme.

BBC Today Programme: Ministers must put fishing businesses and livelihoods ahead of MSY dogma: NFFO

NFFO Chief Executive, Barrie Deas argued that there is no crisis in fish stocks in our waters that would justify anything like the 60% quota cuts proposed for some of our most important quotas. The science is quite clear. Since 2000, there has been a dramatic (in the region of 50%) reduction in fishing pressure for all the main species groups, right across the north East Atlantic. As a result, stocks are rebuilding, some rapidly, some more slowly, due to local circumstances and recruitment patterns.

Against this background, of generally increasing stock abundance, the NFFO argues that the quota reductions proposed by the Commission are driven by two main factors:

  • By a legal timetable enshrined in the reformed CFP, to set quotas in relation to maximum sustainable yield by 2015
  • Where the information held on specific species is poor, a precautionary 20% reduction is required

The NFFO underlined that fisheries ministers have it in their hands to depart from the MSY timetable, if justified on socio-economic grounds. And whilst it is sensible to take a precautionary approach to data limited stocks, year-on-year cuts of 20% is simply overkill and a misunderstanding of what the scientific recommendations.

Barrie Deas added “Fishermen aren't opposed to moving progressively and incrementally to high yield fisheries. Why would they be? But they have to survive economically next year as well as achieving long term sustainability - and these proposed cuts threaten that viability. This year we already have the example of the Bristol Channel, where cumulative quota cuts led to a complete closure of the fishery. The larger vessels have been displaced out of the Bristol Channel. The smaller vessels are tied up. The local processor has closed down. 12 fish workers have lost their jobs. All this against the background of stable or improving stock levels. This is the “socio-economic reality” of knee-jerk quota reductions without a clear understanding of the implications.”

Adherence to the MSY 2015 timetable (which lets remember is a completely arbitrary date) would be to put dogma ahead of livelihoods.

“In my experience there is very little between conservationists and fishermen in terms of destination – long term sustainability within a fully functioning ecosystem. It is the timetable that is the point of dispute. And we hope ministers in these negotiations put real fishing businesses and real livelihoods ahead of slogans.”


The Commission’s proposals, if followed, would require the following reductions:

Eastern Channel sole - 60%

Celtic Sea cod - 64%

Celtic Sea Haddock - 41%

Skates and Rays - 20%

Megrim - 21%