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'Our Fish' warns Norway-EU agreement fishing TACs favour overfishing

Friday, December 08, 2017, 00:30 (GMT + 9)

Our Fish campaign has harshly criticised the European Union-Norway agreement on fishing limits for shared stocks in 2018, arguing that it allows continued overfishing in the North Sea and Skagerrak.

In addition, the NGO opposes to the fact that illegal discarding behaviour will be rewarded with extra quota allowances.

“It is outrageous that the EU is again subjecting the North Sea, Skagerrak and Kattegat to legalised overfishing, like some sort of horrible Groundhog Day for fish stocks”, said Our Fish Programme Director Rebecca Hubbard.

Hubbard expresses concern about the fact that the total allowable catch (TAC) for cod in the Skagerrak has been set at unbelievable 88.17 per cent above scientific advice for wanted catch, at 7,995 tonnes.

“This figure includes quota top-up to take into account increased landings, despite the EU being aware that there is likely widespread non-compliance with the discard ban, due to inadequate monitoring and control. This situation clearly amounts to willful double-overfishing by the EU and cannot be excused,” the campaigner highlights.

The NGO forecasts that whiting in both the Kattegat and Skagerrak will again be subject to overfishing with a TAC set 510 per cent above scientific advice for wanted catch (1,050 tonnes) and that the iconic North Sea cod, which recently received Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification, will be fished 45 per cent above what scientists recommend (if non-compliance with the discard ban continues) as a sustainable catch, despite only recently coming back from the brink of commercial collapse (TAC 43,156 tonnes).

Our Fish also regrets that whiting in the North Sea region was also approved for overfishing with a TAC of 99 per cent higher than scientific advice for ‘wanted catch’ (at 22,057 tonnes).

“Our Fish finds it disturbing that while Norway again stated its concerns regarding the lack of technical measures and control of the discard ban by the EU – increasing its call for action to urgent – in reality the EU has done little to resolve the situation, and has even prevented Norway from attending meetings with the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA)”, the NGO points out in a statement.

These environmentalists explain that as a result of EU countries failing to implement advice on proven monitoring and enforcement measures, such as remote electronic monitoring, it is highly possible that millions of baby North Sea cod, equating to a huge 33 per cent of the catch, will be illegally discarded next year, undermining knowledge of total catch quantities, and threatening MSC certification and the ability of the valuable fishery to rapidly regenerate.

Furthermore, the NGO states that the EU also appears to have used its negotiations with Norway on shared stock fishing limits for 2018 to start wheeling out its watered-down ideal of the North Sea Multi-Annual Plan, even though it is still in trialogue.

Hubbard claims that the European Commission and Council seem to be strong-arming the Parliament into dramatically lowering targets to end overfishing of all species, undermining its ability to deliver sustainable fisheries management.

Hubbard concludes that the distinct lack of transparency around the EU-Norway negotiations on shared fish stocks makes detailed assessments of the agreement difficult, adding that in 2018, the EU must provide civil society with the same access industry already benefits from, and it must release all scientific and socio-economic data used to negotiate the fishing limits, in advance.

The Norway-EU fisheries agreement will go to the EU Agrifish Council meeting on December 11-12 for approval by the Council and Commission.

Related article:

Scotland achieves TAC increases for the North Sea

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