This was a different kind of December Council in a number of important ways. Many delegations…
Stakeholder Meeting on EU Cod Management Plan: London Meeting
The EU Cod Management Plan has been evaluated by STECF and found to be flawed in some serious respects.
Member states recently advised the Commission about the changes they would like to see as part of an interim regime whilst the process of developing and agreeing a new Plan is completed.
Against this background, a meeting for UK fisheries stakeholders was recently convened by Defra to address the content of a new long term approach to rebuilding the cod stocks in the North Sea, Irish Sea, West of Scotland and Eastern Channel
During the course of the meeting the NFFO made the following points:
- It is clear that an exclusive focus on a single species - cod – is unlikely to be effective because of the multi-species and multi- gear nature of our fisheries; a mixed fishery approach is required, although it is not yet clear what this might mean in terms of the underpinning science or management measures; this preparatory work is vital in informing the management options available
- The approach must be regionalised. The different stock dynamics in the North Sea, West of Scotland and Irish Sea and the different fleet characteristics strongly suggest that management measures must be tailored to the specifics of the fisheries; it is clear in respect that a different approach when cod are appearing on the grounds in greater numbers is required from when the stock is in evident decline
- Any realistic Plan will have to take an ecosystem approach, addressing all the factor which influence stock abundance and mortality; there should be no holy cows
- Effort control has no place in a future Plan: the rationale for using such a blunt tool was high levels of misreported landings and it is generally agreed that these conditions no longer apply; a more tailored and targeted approach to measures is required
- STECF has indicated that effective cod avoidance and discard reduction initiatives, if supported by stakeholders and adequately incentivised, can make a major contribution to reducing cod mortality; this feature of the existing plan should be built on
- New ways of incentivising cod avoidance should be found: using the cod currently discarded is one obvious way through which a win-win-win outcome could be achieved, with advantages for the stocks, the vessels at business level and for the management objectives
- Data deficiencies and resultant weaknesses in the scientific assessments should be addressed by stronger and more widely spread fisheries science partnerships, and a more creative approach to fully documented fisheries to provide accurate catch information should be developed; these could involve:
- Catch Quota Schemes on the current trial model
- On-board observers
- Various kinds of reference fleets, using random spot checks and a risk based approach
- It is unrealistic to consider that Catch Quotas with CCTV cameras could be run out across the whole fleet
- Participation and support of the fishing industry should be at the heart of any new Plan: considerable progress has been made in rebuilding trust between the industry and fisheries scientists; this must now be extended to relations between the industry and fisheries managers. A regionalised CFP should help in this regard.
- Failed management measures and weak stock assessments in the Irish Sea and West of Scotland are intimately entwined: they must both rebooted: what is required is a multi-faceted but integrated approach which embraces:
- TACs (with a focus on total catches rather than landings)
- Assessment quality
- Means of dealing with data deficiencies
- An ecosystem approach
- A mixed fisheries approach
- The single most straightforward way to reduce discards would be to extend the period for skippers to reconcile their catch compositions from 24 hours to 3 or 12 months.
- The Commission’s CFP reform proposals for an implementation model of regionalised decision-making carries strong echoes of the current cod management plan which was sold on the basis of increase flexibility for member states but which has delivered the opposite – an inflexible and blunt approach that generates perverse outcomes such as widespread discarding.
- The current approach rewards unselective gears and penalises movements towards selective gears: this kind of perverse incentive must be removed from the new plan
- Ways of improving the development and uptake of more cod selective gear should be found: the key is putting in place the right kind of incentive structures.
- The route to cod recovery lies through cod avoidance and the route to effective cod avoidance lies through:
- Exempting vessels which demonstrate that their catch of cod over 12 months is very low (de minimus fisheries)
- Exempting vessels which demonstrate that their catch of cod over 12 months is entirely covered by quotas available to them
- The focus of management should be on outcomes rather the detail of management measures
- By-catches are to be expected in mixed fisheries and are not in themselves a problem if covered by quota
This meeting was a staging point along the way to a revised Plan. There will be many others, including:
- A joint Norwegian/EU conference on achieving MSY in mixed fisheries in May
- ICES advice on mixed fishery and multi-species management available later this year
- An STECF Impact Assessment with options for a new multi-species Plan
- RAC advice from the North Sea RAC and North West Waters RAC
- Evolving member state positions
- The role of the European Parliament
- The development of the dispute between the Commission/Council and the European Parliament over respective competences in the sphere of multi-annual management plans
The NFFO will be active in all of these stages.
NFFO April 12.