After long negotiations, in the early hours of 15 December EU Fisheries Ministers agreed on 2011 Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and quotas for many Atlantic and North Sea fish stocks.
The outcome was, as every year, a compromise between scientific advice and the desire of ministers to avoid drastic quota reductions for political, economic and social reasons. The result was a mixed bag, with some large TAC reductions for some stocks, some far smaller reductions than proposed (Herring west of Scotland) and some increases (sole in the English Channel).
For some key stocks, agreed TACs were far higher than the Commission proposal. For example, the Commission had proposed reductions of over 20% for Nephrops in the Irish Sea and Ministers settled on only a 3% reduction.
Cod stocks proved a sticking point in negotiations. There were some significant quota reductions in line with the Commission’s proposal. But Ministers overturned proposals for large cuts cod in the Irish Sea and West of Scotland. Scientific advice from ICES had called for the fishery in the Irish Sea to be closed, the Commission proposed 50% reductions in catches, but Ministers agreed on a 25 % reduction.
Environmentalists were on the whole dissatisfied with the result, as scientific advice had been disregarded. Seas at Risk stated: “Regrettably, the outcome of discussions at the Council has effectively undermined the Commission’s efforts to restore some important EU fish stocks to a healthy status, by deciding on TACs and quotas which will allow overfishing to continue for several stocks in 2011.” The environmental law organisation Client Earth http://www.clientearth.org/ said after the meeting: “The decision disregards EU environmental law (the Marine Strategy Framework Directive) requiring the EU to ensure all European fish stocks recover to sustainable levels by 2020 – a legal target that the Council’s decision has made practically impossible.”
Ministers and fishery lobby groups were more positive on the outcome of the talks, having avoided a number of reductions in fishing opportunities that were proposed by the Commission. The French minister stated “C’est un bon accord dans l’ensemble”, and his Irish counterpart: “The negotiations have been particularly challenging this year with the European Commission proposing cuts across many stocks of commercial importance for Ireland …. this package will help underpin the economic future of our costal communities,” he added.