Sustainability campaigners criticize UK-EU fisheries deal

A new fisheries agreement between the UK and the EU 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.

According to the agreement, the UK fishing industry it will be allowed to catch 140,000 tonnes of fish worth more than £280m in 2023, the government said on Tuesday. While the allocation remains the same as this year, its expected value is down from £294m.

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

It added that the assigned catch limits for half of the shared stocks were above the sustainable level recommended by scientists, he added.

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

“We were repeatedly assured that this would not happen after Brexit. Well, wake up everyone, it’s happening,” Clover said.

Oceana, a charity, said both sides had allowed overfishing of West Scotland cod, Irish Sea whiting and Celtic Sea herring, among others.

“While both sides adhered to 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, Oceana’s senior director of advocacy in Europe.

“Overfishing is decimating fish stocks in UK and European Union waters. Cod numbers in the Celtic Sea, Irish Sea and West of Scotland have plummeted over the years and are at risk of collapsing if urgent action is not taken,” he said.

According to the agreement, the american fleet it can land 350,000 tons of fish, whose value is estimated at around 1,000 million euros according to historical prices adjusted for inflation, according to the European Commission.

The distribution of fishing quotas, agreed upon when the UK left the bloc in January 2020, is fixed. However, total catch allocations are negotiated annually after receiving scientific advice. The Trade and Cooperation Agreement signed in 2020 ensures that the UK’s share increases by 25 per cent in 2021-26.

The UK said that “wherever possible” catch levels have been set in line with, or below, the level recommended by scientists from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea.

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

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

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

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

Virginijus Sinkevičius, the EU’s environment commissioner, said: “Today’s agreement will secure fishing opportunities for fishermen and women, and support the livelihoods of coastal communities.”

He added: “It will advance the sustainable use of shared marine living resources, provide security for our fishermen for the coming year and lay a strong foundation for continued fisheries management cooperation with the UK.”

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