European Union and the United Kingdom - fisheries consultations: written record 2023

Written record of fisheries consultations between the United Kingdom and the European Union for 2023.

Jointly managed stocks (TCA Annex 35)

a) the Delegations considered the jointly managed stocks listed in Annex 35 to the TCA and agreed to establish TACs for 2023, and for one deep-sea stock (ALF/3X14- Alfonsinos (3, 4,5,6,7,8,9,10,12,14) also for 2024, for those stocks, as described in Annex 1 to this Written Record.

b) the TACs referred to in paragraph (a) above represent the agreed catch before any adjustments are applied.

c) the TACs referred to in paragraph (a) above will be allocated between the Parties as indicated in Table 1 in Annex 1.

d) Should the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) provide new scientific advice on TACs the Delegations agree to discuss its implications and consider whether any changes to these TACs are required.

e) The TACs referred to in paragraph (a) are established without prejudice to the future approach to TAC-setting in annual consultations, including the application of the TAC-setting principles set out in the Parties’ respective legislation.

f) Stocks with no ICES advice

In relation to those stocks which currently lack ICES advice (Herring (Western Channel and Bristol Channel) HER/7EF.; Plaice (West of Scotland) PLE/56-14; Saithe (Celtic Sea) POK/7/3411; Sole (West of Scotland) SOL/56-14.the Parties agreed to work together through the SCF, and with ICES, to improve the availability of data and/or assessment methods to inform future scientific advice.

g) Stocks with zero catch advice

i. There are certain stocks for which ICES has issued scientific advice for no catches. If the TACs for those stocks were set at the level indicated in the scientific advice the obligation to land all catches in mixed fisheries with by-catches from these stocks would lead to the phenomenon of ‘choke species’. In order to strike the right balance between socio-economic considerations and the need to achieve a good biological status for those stocks, taking into account mixed fishery considerations, the Delegations agreed that it is appropriate to establish specific TACs for by-catches for those stocks.

ii. The level of these TACs has been set with the objective of ensuring that the fishing mortality is not increased and of rebuilding the stock. The Delegations agreed for some stocks with zero TAC advice, to set a small TAC to allow for continued monitoring of the fishery.

h) Deep-sea stocks

The Delegations acknowledged the vulnerable nature of deep-sea stocks and the ecosystems of which they form part. The Parties therefore committed to continuing to work jointly through the SCF to develop proposals to improve the management of relevant fisheries to ensure the long-term conservation of deep-sea stocks and where necessary their recovery.

i. Roundnose grenadier: The Delegations noted the ongoing work of the SCF on roundnose grenadier (RNG/5B67- and RNG/8X14-). Acknowledging the possible need for an in-year amendment as a result of this work the Delegations agreed to set the roundnose grenadier TAC for 2023 only, and to revisit this during the consultations for 2024 to reflect any agreed interpretation of the advice.

ii. Western red seabream: Given that this is an ICES category 5 stock, the Delegations shared the view that efforts should be made to improve the scientific information of the stock. The Delegations noted that ICES reported that catches declined significantly in the 1970s–80s, and this is considered to be demonstrative of the depletion in stock biomass with recent declines reflecting the TAC constraint, and that ICES gave advice for zero catches.

As a follow-up to commitments to work jointly in the SCF in 2021 and 2022, the EU has presented its Delegated Regulation that introduces new technical measures to be implemented as of January 2023, with an aim to support the long-term recovery of this stock. In parallel, the introduction of new EU measures to protect marine ecosystems is also envisaged to have additional positive effects in this regard.

Until the short term effectiveness of the delegated act measures is known and reviewed, the Delegations have agreed to set the TAC for 2023 only. As a concrete follow-up in the SCF, the actual catches of red seabream in 2023 will be monitored and the Delegations will take into account the effectiveness of the measures in reducing unwanted bycatches when determining whether a TAC reduction remains appropriate for 2024.

iii. Black scabbardfish: the Delegations noted that previously for this stock, the total advice was split between three areas based on the catch distribution in 2013. Because of changes in regulations affecting the distribution of effort, the catch proportions by area are changing rapidly in recent years. ICES does not consider these catch proportions necessarily represent sustainable harvest rates for the different components of the stock, and therefore the advice for 2023 is not split by area.

With a view to agreeing on an appropriate way in which the total advice should be split for BSF/56712- and BSF/8910- going forward, the Parties will engage in the SCF in 2023. Acknowledging the possible need for an in-year amendment as a result of this work the Delegations agreed to set the black scabbardfish TACs for 2023 only, and to revisit them during the consultations for 2024 to reflect any agreed TAC split.

i) Blue Ling: the Delegations agreed that during 2023, the SCF should consider whether there are sufficient grounds to request ICES to re-examine the distribution of blue ling stocks (Blue ling (Molva dypterygia) in subareas 6-7 and Division 5.b (Celtic Sea and Faroes grounds) and; Blue ling (Molva dypterygia) in subareas 1, 2, 8, 9 and 12, and in divisions 3.a and 4.a (Northeast Atlantic).) in the North East Atlantic. The request should ask ICES to identify and assess the relevant scientific evidence, including genetic studies and distributional maps, and advise on any potential (level and locations) for Blue Ling caught within ICES Area 4a to have originated from the stock of Blue Ling in the Celtic Seas, English Channel, and Faroes grounds (bli.27.5b67). The Parties agreed that during 2023, the SCF should consider whether there are management implications as a consequence of the ICES advice.

j) Ling: the Delegations noted that the TACs which are agreed between the EU and UK for Ling 3a (LIN/03A-C.), North Sea ling (LIN/04-C.) and Western ling (LIN/6X14.) are part of the same biological stock as defined by ICES. They also noted that in the Written Record of fisheries consultations between the United Kingdom and the European Union for 2022 (the Written Record for 2022) the Delegations agreed to set the TACs for 2023 at levels cumulatively corresponding to the headline advice of 15,092 tonnes. The Delegations agreed that the TAC reduction of 35 tonnes (-24%) for LIN/03A-C. would be set against the TAC for Western ling (LIN/6X14.) for 2023 only to help avoid a choke in ICES Area 3a. Both Delegations agreed that this temporary alteration to the application of the advice between TAC areas does not set any precedent for future years, or for TACs for other stocks.

k) Lemon sole/witch and Turbot/brill (L/W/2AC4-C and T/B/2AC4-C): the Delegations noted that in Article 504 of the TCA, the Parties agreed to request advice from ICES on the alignment of the management areas and the assessment units used by ICES for these stocks. The Delegations noted the conclusion of such a joint request to ICES at the SCF meeting of 20 July 2022, which was issued on the 16 December 2022. Within six months of receipt of that advice, the Parties will jointly review it and consider adjustments to the management areas of the stocks concerned. The Delegations reaffirmed this commitment and agreed to address it as a matter of priority in the SCF in 2023.

l) Norway pout: The Delegations will consult on the fishing opportunities for Norway pout following publication of the ICES advice, in a timely manner before the interim TAC for November and December is set. The TAC set out in Annex 1 incorporates the TAC agreed from 1 November 2022 to 31 December 2022 in the consultations on 12 October 2022.

m) Skates and rays: The Delegations noted the work undertaken in the SCF to progress the commitment to seek to agree the most appropriate way to interpret ICES advice for the setting of the skates and rays group TACs SRX/07D, SRX/2AC4-C and SRX/67AKXD. Despite good progress being made, the Parties in the SCF have not reached a definitive conclusion and have agreed to accelerate efforts to reach a conclusion ahead of the consultations for 2024. This work may include further discussions on the refinement of either of the two methods mentioned in paragraph iii below. The SCF will also consider the approach for scientific observation data collection programmes for small eyed ray in area 7e.

In parallel, recognising that the current TAC management approach provides limited protection to vulnerable stocks, the Delegations also agreed to begin to jointly develop alternatives to the current group TACs in early 2023 which may include the possible introduction of individual TACs for key stocks, with a view to any agreed alternative being implemented as soon as possible.

For the setting of the group TACs for 2023, the Delegations considered possible TAC figures derived under the two methods: summing up the advice (UK method) or applying the average change in advice (EU method). For 2023, the Delegations agreed to TAC levels that fall within the range of the two methods. The Delegations considered that the UK method was more appropriate for the TAC-setting for 2023, recognising that it is a more direct translation of the ICES advice, including some substantial changes in advice for individual stocks. As a result, the Delegations agreed to follow the approach of summing up the advice for the setting of the SRX/67AKXD TAC. The same logic applies to the setting of SRX/89-C TAC. For SRX/07D, the Delegations agreed to give a 75/25 weighting in favour of the UK method.

The approach to TAC-setting for 2023 is without prejudice to the outcome of the work in the SCF mentioned above in paragraphs i and ii above.

n) Celtic Sea whiting: The Delegations noted that the Celtic Sea whiting TAC area (WHG/7X7A-C) encompasses two biological stocks (the whg.27.7.b-c,e-k stock and the Division 7d part of the whg.27.47d stock). The Delegations also noted the commitment in Art 504 of the TCA to consider adjustments to the management areas of certain stocks, including the aforementioned stocks (and making any consequential changes to Annex 35 to the TCA). In the light of their shared concerns regarding the difference in the relative health of the two stocks, the Delegations re-confirmed their agreement in the Written Record for 2022 to pursue this commitment in relation to the Celtic Sea whiting stocks 7b-c,e-k and 7d, and agreed to do so ahead of TAC-setting for 2024. The Parties have recently submitted a joint request to ICES relating to alignment of the management area and committed to progressing this issue as soon as the response is received. The Delegations committed to agreeing a timetable in early 2023 for the steps in seeking agreement on the adjustment of management areas.

o) Western horse mackerel: The Delegations took note of the ICES zero-catch advice for Western horse mackerel (JAX/2A-14) for 2023 (ICES (2022): Horse mackerel (Trachurus trachurus) in Subarea 8 and divisions 2.a, 4.a, 5.b, 6.a, 7.a–c, and 7.e–k (Northeast Atlantic). ICES Advice: Recurrent Advice. Reportand the need to manage this fishery cautiously, given the significant change since the last evaluation. In the meantime, to avoid a choke effect that would lead to the premature closure of other important fisheries, they have carefully considered the non-zero catch options included in the ICES catch scenarios. Consequently, the Delegations agreed that a by-catch only TAC be set at 13,400 t, in line with the catch option which would allow a 4.96% increase in the spawning stock biomass (SSB) in 2024 compared to 2023 and which should be expected to lead to a rebuilding of the stock.

The Delegations committed to asking ICES for an inter-benchmark assessment in 2023. Moreover, the Delegations noted that the ICES advice received is for one stock/species, (Trachurus trachurus) and this forms the basis of the TAC (JAX/2A-14). The TAC covers the Trachurus genus, of which there are three species in the Western waters which are all caught together with the main stock of Horse mackerel proper (Trachurus trachurus). Catches of Trachurus mediterraneus (Mediterranean horse mackerel) and Trachurus picturatus (blue jack mackerel) are relatively low, and for the blue jack mackerel, mainly caught further south together with the Southern horse mackerel stock, but ICES considers the TAC should cover the main Horse Mackerel (Trachurus trachurus) only, and separate TACs should be established for the other species. The Delegations committed to request to ICES to address this issue at the possible inter-benchmark assessment in 2023.

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