Both sides of the Christmas break have seen intense activity at Westminster as the Fisheries…
December Council: Urgent Briefing for New Minister
As NFFO News went to press the NFFO was due to meet the new Fisheries Minister Huw Irricana-Davies for urgent talks mainly focused on the December Council. The ministerial reshuffle, along with changes amongst Defra’s senior officials has led to concerns over the lack of experience in the UK negotiating team.
“October is far from ideal, from a fisheries point of view, for a change of minister, especially as this coincides with major changes amongst key officials”, said NFFO Chief Executive Barrie Deas. “A meeting with the Federation to brief the Minister on the key issues has been organised very quickly, so it is at least reassuring that there is an appreciation of the problem”.
The December Council and the closely linked EU/Norway negotiations threaten to be among the most difficult in recent years. Massive discarding of marketable cod in the North Sea, the extension of the cod recovery plan – and effort control – to the Celtic Sea, a revised cod recovery plan, untenable by-catch limits, a separate TAC for Channel cod, difficulties with Irish sea nephrops and North Sea whiting, along with a Commission pursuing an increasingly aggressive approach, all suggest a difficult set of negotiations.
“It will be essential that the Defra team draw on the reservoir of experience within the industry to strengthen its negotiating positions. That is why the NFFO will be in force at all of the key meetings in Norway and Brussels.
A forthcoming meeting of the NFFO Shellfish Committee, in Derby, will focus on Defra’s policies on crab and lobster conservation, as well as shellfish marketing and the potential impact of wind-farms and marine conservation zones on access to shellfish grounds.
Shellfish Committee Chairman Gary Hodgson has invited Defra officials, and Cefas scientists to ensure that the meeting has maximum impact.