NFFO North East Committee Demands Realistic Approach to Whiting TAC

9th April 2009 in North East, TACs and Quotas

Overall, the North Sea whiting TAC tends to be underutilised but inflexibilities in the management and TAC regime denies the NE fleet access to realistic quota tonnages.

The present TAC and management arrangements for North Sea whiting do not reflect the realities on the ground and can only result in increased discards. That was the conclusion of a meeting of the NFFO’s North East Committee held recently in North Shields.

The Committee heard that ICES stock assessments are only now catching up with the reality that there is an abundance of whiting off the North East coast, although elsewhere in the North Sea there is evidence of a failure in recruitment over successive years, probably reflecting environmental changes. The result is that the whiting quota available to the North East fleet bears no relation to the whiting that will be hauled in the nets in this mixed fishery over the course of the year.

In recent years Norway and Denmark have not caught their whiting allocations but there has been resistance to making this quota available to the areas where it is needed. This is ironic, given Norway’s high minded approach to discards and that the overall result of inertia in the management system will be large scale quota-driven dumping of whiting over the course of this year.

The Committee agreed to prepare personal statements from a number of north east skippers describing their circumstances: low quotas, high quota leasing costs, loss of income, discarding that can only retard the rebuilding of the whiting biomass. The NFFO will ensure that the personal statements are made available to the ICES North Sea working group that meets on 6th May, as the first step in setting the TAC for 2010. In the meantime the Federation will press for in-year actions to reduce the scale of the problem.

The Committee discussed and adopted positions on a range of other issues, including days at sea restrictions, the Scottish Executive’s pressure for a separate quota system, the North Sea RAC’s work on a long term management plan for nephrops, the EC control regulation, under 10 meter issues, marine conservation zones, and crab and lobster regulation. The Committee also discussed the tagging scheme and logbooks for salmon catches, the Environment Agency’s Net Limitation Order and the potential for another licence buyout scheme.