Brussels fishery talks

Challenging outcome for the Scottish industry.

The traditional end-of-year European Union fishery negotiations have concluded with agreement on a range of quotas and management measures.

But the talks – potentially Scotland’s last as a member of the EU – took place against difficult scientific advice. Combined with other recent agreements between the EU, Faroe and Norway, which were ratified in Brussels, there are a number of challenging outcomes for the Scottish fleet.

Key points of the agreement include:
• total allowable catch (TAC) for West of Scotland cod reduced by 26%, in line with the scientific advice, but without the arbitrary additional 20% cut originally proposed
• ratification of the 50% decrease in North Sea cod agreed between the EU and Norway last week
• a 5% increase in TAC for North Sea ling
• a 5% increase on last year’s TAC levels for North Sea skate and rays
• relaxation of some proposed control and management measures

Fisheries Secretary Fergus Ewing, who has been representing Scotland’s interests in Brussels, said:
“With Brexit about to happen it has been clear the EU is already prioritising other members over the state about to walk away. That is perhaps unsurprising, but coupled with the challenging scientific advice, it has made this a difficult two days.
“We still managed to secure a final agreement for West of Scotland cod better than the initial proposal, and an increase in North Sea ling. However, I am disappointed that other proposals – particularly those that would have allowed for more sustainable management of fisheries, and better compliance with the landing obligation - were not been adopted.
“We worked for a deal that reflects the key principles of the Common Fisheries Policy – the need to fish sustainably while supporting the interests of coastal communities and fishers. Unfortunately, combined with other negotiations the deal will struggle to deliver this for the Scottish industry. Worse, we now potentially find ourselves as a bystander next year, and we have had early indication of how difficult future negotiations might be. Whatever the future holds, I and the Scottish Government will continue to champion the interests of Scotland’s fishing industry.”

Elspeth Macdonald, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF), said:

“The reduction in TAC for North Sea cod will have a serious economic impact on the Scottish white fish sector next year, and will present major practical difficulties for the fleet. Despite the disappointing and damaging outcome of this year’s negotiations, we are grateful to Fergus Ewing and his team of officials who, alongside their UK counterparts, worked tirelessly to secure the best outcomes that could be achieved in these circumstances.

“We also welcome their commitment to review and update the stock assessment model for North Sea cod, reflecting the changing distribution of cod in the North Sea, most likely as a result of climate change.

“In anticipation of better days ahead, the SFF looks forward to working closely and constructively with both the Scottish and UK governments as we develop the Fisheries Agreement that will establish the framework for the future of this industry, outside of the Common Fisheries Policy.”


December Council is the culmination of a number of end-of-year fishery negotiations. Each member state is allocated quotas for each stock – capping the amount the industry is able to fish in the coming year. Quotas are agreed based on a balance between economic interests and scientific evidence on the health of stocks.

Recent EU/Faroe negotiations resulted in no increase in quota for stocks with particular importance for the Scottish fleet, with unnecessary increases in others.

Details of last week’s agreement between Norway and the EU.


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