Thursday, 17 December 2015

EU Council

This week I have been representing the UK in Brussels in my role as Fisheries Minister.  It is my third year leading our negotiating team and while challenges remain, it does feel like our fisheries industry is starting to turn the corner. 

The picture is particularly good in the North Sea where the haddock quota has gone up by around 30 percent with cod going up by 15 percent and monkfish by 20 percent.  Meanwhile in the channel we are likely to see a big increase in the quotas for plaice with science suggesting quotas could more than double over last year.  

Here in the far South West the picture remains more challenging. There will be some difficult decisions to be made on inshore bass targeting and likely cuts in the quota for haddock and cod for another year.  However, in other areas things are brighter.  There could be an increase in sole in some areas, while the science, although limited, shows that skates and rays are in a strong position and we are likely to see another increase in the quota for hake. I will also be looking to maintain current quotas on other high value species of great importance to Newlyn including Monkfish, Megrim and Pollock.

I have always argued we should make the best judgement we can with the science we have and this year one of my key priorities will be to persuade the European Commission that they should look at trends in so called "data limited" stocks and allow quotas to rise gradually as the stock recovers rather than have arbitrary cuts in quota which is what has sometimes happened before.

The latest reform of the CFP means that decisions about how to manage fisheries are taken by the groups of countries that have a shared interest in the fishing grounds concerned rather than centralised and this year will also be the first year that we start to phase in the discard ban for some of the main species caught here in the South West.