I am now entering my third year as Fisheries Minister and we are starting the annual negotiations leading up to the December Fisheries Council where quotas and fishing opportunities are settled. At the moment much of the focus is on the agreements we must reach with those countries outside the EU such as Norway, Iceland and the Faroes. This is particularly important for the agreements we need to reach for fish like mackerel in the North Sea.
However, I have also begun preparation work to develop our case for December Council where most of the agreements relevant to Cornwall are concluded. I want to make sure that where we have a species where the scientific evidence is patchy, that we make the best assessment we can with the evidence we have rather than assume the worst. If you set quotas that do not reflect the state of a particular stock, then you risk increased discarding.
Next year is also the year that the discard ban will start to come into effect and this week I announced our plans to introduce this. This has been an important reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. It means that the shameful practice of discarding will be banned, starting with a handful of species this year and rolling it out to cover all species over the next four years. Instead, fishermen will be given an uplift to their quota to allow for the fact they are no longer throwing good fish back, they will be offered grants to improve the selectivity of their nets and there will be new flexibilities to make the discard ban work in practice such as flexibilities on quotas and exemptions for some fish species which will survive if put back.
Finally, I also announced this week a plan to give more quota to our smaller inshore vessels. I made a clear pledge at the last election to rebalance quotas so that the small "under ten metre" boats received a fairer share of the national quota and from next January they will.