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Fisheries talks conclude

Published: 2 Dec 2016 20:28

Mixed emotions as EU/Norway deal is completed

Negotiations between the EU and Norway have concluded tonight in Bergen. The European Commission decided to proceed with the signing of the EU/Norway Agreement despite opposition from the UK and Ireland.

Fisheries Secretary Fergus Ewing has welcomed overall increases of around 16% for both cod and whiting, and a significant overall increase of around 53% for saithe.

Mr Ewing said:

“We’re pleased that the agreement now gives certainty on quota levels on some key stocks in the North Sea next year – this is particularly important for the cod and whiting that are introduced into the landing obligation in the North Sea next year.

“However, we feel the cost for this deal is excessive, where the Commission has chosen to give away 110,000 tonnes of Blue Whiting to Norway as well as increase access to our waters for Norwegian vessels in 2017, with very little direct tangible benefit to the Scottish fishing industry. This is very disappointing, considering Scotland is the second largest contributor to the overall package.”

Notes for editors

The EU/Norway agreement provides significant quota opportunities for a number of key North Sea stocks, and for Scotland delivers more in economic terms than December Council. In 2016, based on 2015 average prices, around £100m worth of quota derives from EU/Norway compared to around £77m from December Council (excluding Nephrops).

The agreement sets total catch levels for a number of Scotland’s key fish stocks in the North Sea whose management is shared with Norway. Details of the final outcomes from the talks for each of these shared stocks after exchanges where relevant is as follows:

  • North Sea cod. This stock enters the landing obligation in 2017, so the final TAC will comprise two elements: (a) the unadjusted quota which we expect to increase by 5% in 2017 to 35,334t; (b) an additional quota top up of 3,886t (11.0%) to help the fleet to land what was previously discarded.  This means the final TAC will increase from 33,651t in 2016 to 39,220t in 2017.
  • North Sea whiting. This stock enters the landing obligation in 2017, so the final TAC will comprise two elements: (a) the unadjusted quota which we expect to rollover in 2017 at 13,678t; (b) an additional quota top up of 2,325t (17.0%). This means the final TAC will increase from 13,678t in 2016 to 16,003t in 2017.
  • North Sea saithe.  This stock started to enter the landing obligation in 2016, so the final TAC in 2017 will comprise two elements: (a) the unadjusted quota which we expect to increase by 55% in 2017 to 96,337t; (b) a small additional quota top up of 3,950t (4.1%).  This means the final TAC will increase from 65,696t in 2016 to 100,287t in 2017.
  • North Sea haddock.  This stock will be fully under the landing obligation in 2017, so the final fully topped up TAC will decrease by 45% as per the scientific advice. This means the final TAC will decrease from 61,933t in 2016 to 33,643t in 2017.
  • North Sea plaice. This stock entered the landing obligation in 2016, so the final TAC in 2017 will comprise two elements: (a) the unadjusted quota which we expect to rollover in 2017 at 128,376t; (b) a small additional quota top up of 1,541t (1.2%). This means the final total TAC will be 129,917t in 2017.
  • North Sea herring. This stock is already fully in the landing obligation.  The final TAC is expected to decrease by 7% in 2017 to 481,608t in 2017.

Cod and whiting are being brought into the landing obligation in the North Sea for the first time in 2017, and these stocks will be eligible for so-called quota top ups to help the fleet to land what was previously discarded. Haddock, saithe and plaice entered the landing obligation to varying degrees in 2016 so will attract further quota top ups in 2017. Herring is already in the landing obligation and topups don’t apply. Quota top ups are not ‘free fish’. They are specifically to cover fish that is currently discarded and will now have to be landed.

The agreement also includes a complex series of exchanges of quota and access between the parties on a range of stocks – the so-called ‘balance’. The agreement for 2017 includes a number of quota stocks in Norwegian waters that will continue to be available to the Scottish fleet in 2017.