Sustainability campaigners slam UK-EU fisheries deal

Sustainability campaigners slam UK-EU fisheries deal

A new UK-EU fisheries deal threatens the sustainability of vulnerable fish stocks and goes against international scientific guidelines, environmental campaigners have said.

The deal, the third signed by London and Brussels since Brexit, is part of a deal to gradually increase the share of stocks allocated to UK fishing vessels in shared waters.

Under the deal, Britain’s fishing industry will be allowed to catch 140,000 tonnes of fish worth more than £280million in 2023, the government announced on Tuesday. Although the allocation remains the same as this year, its expected value is down from £294m.

“These catch limits show that the mismanagement of UK and EU seas is set to continue,” said Charles Clover, executive director of the Blue Marine Foundation, an ocean conservation charity.

He said the allocated catch limits for half of the shared stocks were above the sustainable level advised by scientists, he added.

“Some of the agreed limits are better than last year…but clearly the parties have again agreed to allow significant and demonstrable overfishing in the face of scientific evidence and their own laws.

“We have been assured on several occasions that this will not happen after Brexit. Well, wake up everyone, it’s happening,” Clover said.

Charity Oceana said the two sides had allowed overfishing of cod in the west of Scotland, whiting in the Irish Sea and herring in the Celtic Sea, among others.

“While both parties have bought into the science for some stocks, we deeply regret their inability to make the right decision for stocks in the poorest conservation status,” said Vera Coelho, senior advocacy director at Oceana. in Europe.

“Overfishing is decimating fish populations in UK and EU waters. Cod numbers in the Celtic Sea, Irish Sea and off the west of Scotland have dropped over the years and are in danger of collapsing unless urgent action is taken,” he said. she declared.

Under the agreement, the EU fleet can land 350,000 tonnes of fish, with an estimated value of around €1 billion based on historical prices adjusted for inflation, according to the European Commission.

The distribution of fishing quotas, agreed when the UK left the bloc in January 2020, is fixed. However, total catch allocations are negotiated each year after scientific advice. The trade and cooperation agreement signed in 2020 ensures that the UK’s share increases by 25% in 2021-26.

The UK said that “wherever possible” catch levels were set at or below the level advised by scientists from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea.

The proportion of catch levels that align with ice advice has increased by about 13 percentage points from last year, showing a modest improvement in efforts to meet environmental limits.

In 2022, catch limits for 65% of shared fisheries were set above scientific advice, falling to 52% this year.

UK Fisheries Minister Mark Spencer said: “Our agreement with the EU secures valuable fishing opportunities for the UK fishing industry while delivering on our shared commitment to manage fisheries sustainably.

“These decisions are based on the latest scientific advice to help protect key fish stocks with the long-term health of the marine environment at the forefront of our concerns,” he said.

Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for the Environment, said: “Today’s agreement will secure fishing opportunities for fishermen and women, and support the livelihoods of coastal communities.

He added: “This will advance the sustainable use of shared living marine resources, provide certainty for our fishermen for the year ahead and establish a solid foundation for continued fisheries management cooperation with the UK.” .

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