Trilateral and bilateral negotiations have opened between the UK and adjacent coastal states with the aim of agreeing total allowable catches for shared stocks and other fisheries management measures for 2021.
The UK will participate in the negotiations with adjacent coastal states, including EU, Norway and Faeroes, as an independent coastal state for the first time since leaving the EU.
According to the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO), it is expected that “in the first instance, the UK will seek agreement with the EU and other coastal states, with a shared commitment to setting TACs at sustainable levels and agreeing remedial actions where these are deemed necessary”.
In addition to setting TACs, the parties will also try to reach agreement on quota exchanges where these are deemed to bring mutual benefit.
The talks need to address multiple substantive issues, said the NFFO. The ongoing distributional shift in the cod populations in UK waters, and proportionate steps to limit fishing pressure on the remaining stocks will be one particularly difficult issue to address in the North Sea and the Celtic Sea.
Measures to assist the continuing rebuilding of the stocks of seabass will also be part of the bilateral negotiations, although bass is not strictly speaking a TAC species.
More broadly, the management of stocks which have high economic value but are not currently subject to TACs will be a focus of these talks; later in the year, the specialist committee that will now be established to handle a range of UK/EU joint stock management issues will also address this issue.
Revision and reform of the EU landing obligation, will be an early priority. A “workable and enlightened” discard policy will probably become a major element in the fisheries specific fisheries management plans foreseen in the Fisheries Act, noted the NFFO.
It added that there is an immediate need to address the choke risks that are an inherent part of the landing obligation as currently constituted. In the meantime, reducing unwanted catch will remain one of the primary focuses of fisheries managers when setting TACs.
If the UK cannot agree TAC numbers or ancillary management measures, it has the option of setting its own autonomous quotas and applying its own management measures for all vessels operating in its waters.