8th October 2013, 17:38
Days at sea / CFP / Quota talks
MCS just don't want ANYONE to be allowed to fish commercially, Davie
MCS urges caution over Mackerel Stocks
THE Marine Conservation Society says the news that mackerel stocks may be increasing is welcome, but it is urging all parties to keep fishing pressure at or below their current levels until a full stock assessment is made available. It added that the news should not be seen as a "green light" to increase fishing pressure on mackerel.
Interim advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) last week suggested that stocks of mackerel may have increased in recent years, but unexpectedly, the body will be making no formal assessment available until next year. ICES, the independent assessment body of fisheries scientists, has thrown out its traditional data assessment methodology for the fishery because growing uncertainty in catch data before 2005 has altered its perception of the stock.
Jim Masters, MCS Aqauculture and Fisheries manager, said: "Fisheries scientists have an enormous task in providing estimates of stock size, particularly for widely distributed stocks like mackerel, yet their estimates will only ever be as good as the data that is made available to them. We will be seeking further clarification of the latest advice from ICES and will also be talking to stakeholders as we review ratings for the fishery for our updated Fishonline and Good Fish Guide."
Recent catches and preliminary findings from egg surveys show an increasing trend in stock size (by up to 1.7 times); and ICES suggest that the stock has both expanded and moved further north and west into regions so far unreported. There may be a wide range of environmental conditions that have led to this movement of stocks, but the MCS said that whatever the reasons, they are likely to be dynamic, resulting in continuous fluctuations in stock size.
The MCS said the dynamic nature of the fishery highlights the importance to reach international agreement on respective quota allocations among the participating nations that target this stock.
11th October 2013, 17:33
Warning over Mackerel deal with Iceland/Faroe
AFTER scientific advisory body ICES last week came out with its latest catch advice on mackerel stock - advocating a 64% increase in 2014 compared with 2013, after it advised a 15% decrease for 2013 - the EU has been warned not to enter into a quick deal with Iceland and the Faroe Islands.
Gerard van Balsfoort, Chairman Northern Pelagic Working Group of EAPO, said: "The mackerel fishing industry welcomes ICES advice that finally acknowledges after so many years what fishermen have been seeing on the fishing grounds for at least 5 years. There is however a high level of frustration in the industry over this same period as EU fishermen have been held back by the EU institutions to make more use of this valuable and vastly increasing stock in their waters. This frustration is compounded by seeing catching sectors in Iceland, Faroe Islands and (recently) even Greenland been given almost limitless freedom by their respective governments to start and expand their mackerel fishery from close to zero to more than 50% of the allowed catches in just a few years."
He added: "With the new ICES advice for a huge TAC increase in mind the EU mackerel industry is very concerned that the European institutions and Member States are prepared to quickly jump into to wheeling and dealing with Iceland and Faroe Islands with the aim to come to a new sharing arrangement with these countries regardless of the consequences for EU fishermen. By doing so the EU would reward these countries for bad behaviour which is unacceptable for the industry. The European Commission and Member States must refrain from such action. Haste is never a good advisor in negotiations and this is all the more true now as the stock continues to be in very healthy state with no danger at all of a stock collapse."
The advice issued by ICES is interim advice that has dramatically changed from last year with the rejection of the assessment and is only based on the recent total catch levels (890,000 ton). In this light ICES has announced a total overhaul of the assessment of Atlantic mackerel early 2014 with the aim to regain its scientific grip on this very important stock.
Meanwhile, Jamie McGrigor, Highlands & Islands Conservative MSP and the Scottish Conservative Fisheries Spokesman, repeated his call for Scottish consumers to purchase Scottish and EU-caught mackerel products and to avoid Icelandic and Faroese-caught products.
McGrigor was speaking at Question Time yesterday in the Scottish Parliament when he raised the issue with the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead. Iceland and the Faroes have started fishing vastly increased amounts of mackerel outwith any agreed international management agreements, leading to fears for the sustainability of the North East Atlantic mackerel stock which is crucial to the Scottish pelagic fleet and worth around £130 million annually to the Scottish economy. The EU previously agreed to impose sanctions on Iceland and the Faroes but has not yet done so.
McGrigor said: "The Cabinet Secretary was correct to point out that the most recent scientific advice on the health of the mackerel stock - which I welcomed, along with pelagic fishing sector representatives - was extremely positive, but this is despite the irresponsible overfishing of the stock by Iceland and the Faroes.
"I would continue to encourage Scottish consumers to ask for Scottish or EU-caught mackerel and mackerel products as we can have full confidence these are fished for in a sustainable and responsible way.
"I am aware that further talks between the EU and Iceland and the Faroes to try to settle the current disagreements are imminent and I want the EU to negotiate as hard as possible to ensure a deal that underpins the long term sustainability of the crucially important North East Atlantic mackerel stock."
The Northern Pelagic Working Group of EAPO said there has not been any movement by Iceland and Faroe Islands away from their intransigent position in negotiations with the EU. It said a first and serious sign by both countries of a more constructive attitude in the negotiations is very much needed. The latest survey indicate that the mackerel stock shows a decreasing presence in Icelandic waters in 2013 (reduction of more than 35%).
16th October 2013, 16:29
A RESEARCH project entitled "Utilisation of discards in bait", funded by Seafish and Defra, has identified new uses for species commonly discarded.
The Defra initiative 'Fishing for the Markets (2011)' highlighted that commonly discarded fish could be used to balance the current shortage of bait in the supply chain. The undersupply issue could be solved by using discards that are not fit for human consumption as pot bait.
Michaela Archer at Seafish said: "The bait market has capacity to be a solution for the utilisation of discarded fish, but needs further investigation in terms of feasibility, storage, transportation, costs, handling and further investment on a local and national level."
Following the initial studies carried out in 'Fishing For the Markets', Defra and Seafish have tasked NFFO Services to focus on delivering three key project stages by February 2014:
1. Review of the bait supply chain: to understand what is used where, and to determine logistics and commercial requirements which need to be in place to facilitate the future use of discards in bait.
2. Commercial trials: to compare discard species against standard baits already used to assess their effectiveness.
3. Reporting: once trials and reviews have been completed, a report detailing the key findings will reveal whether the use of discards as bait is a practical and cost-effective future method for managing discards that may not be sold in human consumption.
Dale Rodmell, NFFO Assistant Chief Executive, said: "There is much to work out yet about how the landings obligation can be made to work, whilst avoiding unintended consequences, but utilising discards for bait does offer one possible opportunity.
"Bait costs are soaring as the demand for bait competes with other markets for fish not for human consumption. The hope is that the availability of fresh fish bait may be an attractive alternative for pot fishermen. It may also boost catching efficiency as it is thought to be more attractive, especially to crabs."
16th October 2013, 17:37
Cutting days fishermen spend at sea would 'cripple' industry
EU proposals to cut the number of days fishermen can spend at sea would "cripple" Scotland's fishing industry, the Rural Affairs Secretary has said.
Fisheries ministers from across Europe will meet in Luxembourg on Thursday, where Richard Lochhead will argue for an increase in the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and no reduction in days allowed at sea.
Mr Lochead said these would be his "key negotiating priorities" in the run-up to crucial talks for the industry later this year.
"Preventing a cut to days-at-sea allowance and, if the science supports it, securing an increase in cod TAC, are two of our key negotiating priorities as we enter this important phase leading up to the crunch Fisheries Council in December," he said.
"And I will be doing everything I can to secure a favourable outcome for Scotland's fishermen."
If fishermen had their days at sea cut, there is a danger they would not be able to catch the amount of fish allocated to them, Mr Lochhead argued.
"One of the most simple and indisputable issues in fishing is that fishermen need to be able to go to sea to catch the quota that has been allocated to them. By cutting the days they are able to go to sea, we risk them not being able to do that and, at a most basic level, that is a ridiculous situation to get ourselves into."
Cutting the time fishermen spend at sea could be damaging to fish stocks, as boats would not be able to fish selectively.
"A reduction to days-at-sea allocation also has a significant economic impact on fishermen and prevents them from fishing selectively due to the reduced time at sea available which is therefore detrimental to fish stocks, clearly not what EU ministers want to achieve. So I will be arguing hard for an effort freeze," Mr Lochhead said.
The Rural Affairs Secretary went on to describe the proposed cut the amount of cod Scotland's fishermen would be allowed to land as "deeply concerning".
Mr Lochhead expects scientific advice due to be published soon "will continue to show significant recovery in cod stocks", arguing that if stocks are increasing, a cut in the quota would only achieve an increase in discards "which is the very thing we are aiming to eradicate through recent Common Fisheries Policy reforms".
He stressed: "It is vital to our success in reducing discards that we take a sensible approach, in line with the science, to managing fish stocks. And again, it is important we don't end up getting the opposite result from what council wants to achieve."
16th October 2013, 17:38
Richard Lochhead asks to lead EU fish talks for UK
Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead has asked the UK government to allow him to lead negotiations for Britain at crucial European quota talks, BBC Scotland has learned.
It comes after last week's reshuffle by David Cameron saw George Eustice replace Richard Benyon as the UK fisheries minister.
Mr Lochhead said it would be unfair to ask the new minister to head the talks.
Allowable days at sea and mackerel quotas are among the main issues.
Mr Lochhead said: "I will be doing everything I can to secure a favourable outcome for Scotland's fishermen."
The EU fisheries council talks begin in Luxembourg on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Scottish fishing industry leaders have welcomed "productive" talks with Mr Eustice and Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael.
The Scottish Pelagic Fishermen's Association (SPFA) said the talks with the politicians covered a range of issues.
'Not feel pressurised'
These included the mackerel dispute with Iceland and the Faroe Islands.
SPFA chief executive Ian Gatt said: "The meeting with Mr Eustice provided an early opportunity to brief the minister on the importance of the autumn negotiation period for the pelagic fleet.
"We stressed to Mr Eustice that newly-released mackerel scientific advice demonstrated that the stock was in robust health and that the UK should not feel pressurised into securing a deal which jeopardised the future of the UK pelagic fleet. "
He added: "We also had a very useful briefing session with Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael, who expressed his full support for our industry."
Mr Carmichael, the MP for Orkney and Shetland, replaced Michael Moore as secretary of state for Scotland in the recent reshuffle.
17th October 2013, 17:56
THE two-day negotiations between the Faroe Islands, the European Union, Iceland, Norway and the Russian Federation on joint management of the Atlanto-Scandian herring, came to an end in London today without reaching an agreement.
In order to initiate negotiations and to attempt a constructive dialogue, the Faroese delegation proposed to have talks on an interim sharing arrangement for the fisheries in 2014, which would be based on objective and equitable criteria, to which the Faroe Islands attach much importance. This interim arrangement would entail an agreement upon the allocation key for the Atlanto-Scandian herring until the joint scientific working group, established to document the zonal attachment for this particular stock, has finished its work. No agreement crystallized in this regard, but the parties agreed to meet again on 10 December 2013.
However, the coastal states agreed to limit the total allowable catch of Atlanto-Scandian herring for 2014 to 418,487 tonnes, as advised by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. The parties also agreed to establish a joint scientific working group, as was proposed by the Faroe Islands at the last coastal states negotiations, which is mandated to collect and collate information on the distribution and abundance of the Atlanto-Scandian herring from 1995 to 2013. The results from the joint scientific working group are to form the foundation for the 2015 management arrangement of the Atlanto-Scandian herring.
17th October 2013, 17:58
ON the day that EU Fisheries Ministers will decide on Baltic quotas for 2014, WWF has expressed its concern that the Commission's proposal for Baltic salmon quotas exceeds the recommended scientific advice by nearly 40%.
Tony Long, Director, WWF European Policy Office, said: "The advice from the European Commission flies in the face of the agreement reached by the European Parliament and Council in May that set a clear goal of reaching sustainable stocks levels in the period between 2015 and 2020."
"Wild Baltic salmon are continuously overexploited and of the 30 salmon stocks only a handful have reached or are likely to reach the minimum recovery targets in the foreseeable future. WWF calls on the Baltic countries to follow the scientific advice provided and hold true to their agreement under the CFP. Fisheries Ministers should apply the precautionary principle and allow the salmon stocks the chance for recovery."
Most of the commercial fish stocks in the Baltic Sea are exploited sustainably following the scientific advice given by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), conceded WWF. However, the Baltic wild salmon it is another story the organisation insists.
Not only is salmon threatened by over fishing, they are also victim to high illegal and unreported catches along with unsuitable spawning areas due to poor water quality and river barriers by water power-plants. These factors prevent their further recovery. WWF and many other environmental and scientific organisations working with the fisheries sector have asked to set a long-term management plan for the Baltic salmon and are still waiting for this plan to be adopted.
17th October 2013, 20:11
SCOTLAND's Fisheries Minister, Richard Lochhead, was heartened by today's meeting of the Fisheries Council in Brussels and he expressed his hope that the TAC of cod would increase.
He said: "The good news out of today's Council is that there is general consensus among Ministers, and indeed acknowledged by the Commissioner herself, that cod stocks are recovering.
"We now await further scientific advice which is due out very soon, which will hopefully reflect this and advise an uplift in Total Allowable Catch (TAC) rather than a cut is actually possible and indeed more than that the only sensible thing to do.
"To suggest a cut when stocks are recovering would cause a huge problem for our fleet in their attempt to tackle discards. And we would yet again see consequences which directly oppose what we are trying to achieve.
"Should this ridiculous situation arise, or a cut in days at sea be suggested in these circumstances, it must surely be the final nail in the coffin for the widely discredited Cod Recovery Plan, which is doing far more harm than good.
"It was disappointing that the UK Government did not allow the request of the Scottish Government to speak on these important issues today, especially given there was a change in UK Fishing Minister just 10 days ago. However, it's not surprising given the number of situations in the past when our requests to speak have been declined. It would appear that whatever situation occurs the circumstances are never right for us to take the chair and that's hugely disappointing and frustrating."
18th October 2013, 15:13
EU to Increase Fishing Quota in Baltic Sea for 2014
The European Commission has tabled its proposal on new fishing quota in the Baltic Sea for 2014, which would increase overall fishing opportunities for EU vessels in the area by 10 percent.
The annual proposal, released by the EU on Thursday and obtained on Friday, suggests the amount of fish which can be caught by European Union fishermen from the main commercial fish stocks in the Baltic Sea next year.
The proposals are mainly based on latest scientific advice which indicates that more stocks are now managed at sustainable levels -- the so-called maximum sustainable yield (MSY) level -- in the Baltic Sea.
"For 2014, the number of known stocks that can be fished at MSY level increased from three to five compared with 2013," the European Commission said in its press release.
The Commission proposes to increase fishing quota this year for eastern cod and stocks of herring in the Central Baltic and Gulf of Bothnia. Meanwhile, the Commission proposes to reduce the number of days at sea for vessels fishing for cod in accordance with the Baltic cod management plan.
The proposed measures would result in an overall increase by 10 percent up to 644 000 tones in fishing opportunities for Union vessels in the Baltic Sea for all species except salmon stocks.
This would increase the value of fishing opportunities for 2014 by 12 million euro (about 9.02 million U.S. dollars) to a total value of approximately 412 million euro(about 309.8 million U.S. dollars).
The Commission said the present proposal shall be discussed by the Member States' ministers at the October Fisheries Council and will apply from 1 January 2014.
21st October 2013, 15:49
Herring dispute talks fail - but new bid in December
ANOTHER attempt to settle the long running herring dispute involving the Faroe Islands has ended without success. However, new talks will be held in December to try to solve what looks like becoming one of the most difficult fishing disputes for years. The EU has slapped limited trade sanctions on the Faroes.
A statement from the Torshavn government said: "The coastal states negotiations between the Faroe Islands, the European Union, Iceland, Norway and the Russian Federation on joint management of the Atlanto-Scandian herring, have come to an end , after two days of negotiations. Regrettably the parties were not able to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement among all five parties concerned on the allocation key for 2014.
"In order to initiate negotiations and to attempt a constructive dialogue, the Faroese delegation proposed to have talks on an interim sharing arrangement for the fisheries in 2014, which would be based on objective and equitable criteria, to which the Faroe Islands attach much importance."
It said any interim arrangement would entail an agreement upon the allocation key for the Atlanto-Scandian herring until the joint scientific working group, established to document the zonal attachment for this particular stock, has finished its work. No agreement crystallized in this regard, but the parties agreed to meet again on December 10th.
The statement added: "However, the coastal states agreed to limit the total allowable catch of Atlanto-Scandian herring for 2014 to 418,487 tonnes, as advised by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. The parties also agreed to establish a joint scientific working group, as was proposed by the Faroe Islands at the last coastal states negotiations, which is mandated to collect and collate information on the distribution and abundance of the Atlanto-Scandian herring from 1995 to 2013. The results from the joint scientific working group are to form the foundation for the 2015 management arrangement of the Atlanto-Scandian herring."