Following the annual fisheries negotiations at the European Council of Ministers in Brussels to decide the catch levels for fishing in EU waters, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) says it’s particularly concerned about the lack of progress on some stocks ahead of Brexit and the continued lack of improvement in the seabass stock.
MCS says that this year a number of stocks will continue to be fished above levels advised by scientists – some of which are found in UK waters including haddock in the Southern Celtic sea and English Chanel, herring in the Irish sea, Celtic sea and off the South West of Ireland and whiting stocks in the West of Scotland and Irish sea, where a zero catch is advised by scientists.
MCS says that seabass remains a significant concern and the charity is pleased to see that further measures are being applied to limit the catch of the stock.
Last year the hope was to cut commercial catches by 50% but it is assumed that only a 17% cut was achieved. To allow the stock to increase by 10% next year, scientists have advised that total catches – targeted, recreational and by-catch – should be no more than 470tonnes. Spatial measures such as moving on from an area where seabass are being caught or improved selectivity of gears could provide additional reductions in catches.
The reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) requires all harvested stocks to be fished at sustainable levels by 2020 (at the latest) and while there’s been a shift towards setting fishing opportunities in line with scientific advice this progress has been slow.
Debbie Crockard, MCS Senior Fisheries Policy Advocate says:
“The number of fish stocks managed at sustainable levels has been increased to 53 which is 9 more than last year but the reality of the situation is that to meet the 2020 deadline we need to act urgently to further align fishing opportunities with how much we can sustainably remove.”
Debbie Crockard says that if Brexit goes ahead as planned, the UK will no longer be part of these discussions after 2019, making this our penultimate December council.
“We’ll be negotiating as an independent Coastal State to agree our share of North Atlantic stocks which span UK, EU and other coastal states waters (such as Norway). So it’s absolutely vital the UK governments ensure that fishing levels are sustainably set particularly if we are to meet the ambition of the Secretary of the State for the Environment who has made strong statements promising a green Brexit and sustainable fisheries.”
The combined issues around plastic pollution, overfishing and climate change make it even more essential that we manage our seas in a way which restores and maintains their biodiversity to ensure their ability to adapt to threats is not impeded. Setting fishing levels in line with scientific advice to allow stocks to recover, improve and be maintained at healthy levels is essential in underpinning a long-term sustainable fishing industry.
“We need to step up to the plate, the UK will have sole responsibility for making sure the seas around our coasts are healthy and sustainable. We need to take that responsibility seriously. Now,” says Debbie Crockard.
For more about the work of the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), please visit www.mcsuk.org.