ANALYSIS - The Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting of December 2012 took place in Brussels on 18-19 December 2012, under the presidency of Mr Sofoklis Aletraris, Cypriot Minister of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment. The Council discussed quotas for 2013 and the outcome saw quotas being significantly increased from those originally proposed.
After two and a half days of tough negotiations, huge proposed cuts to quotas and days at sea were stopped or reduced, after scientific advice showed that the cuts were likely to lead to more discarding.
The talks saw a 29 per cent increase on the whiting quota in the Celtic sea, a 63 per cent increase in blue whiting in the North West and a stop to the drastic cut of the prawn quota in the Irish Sea.
It is also likely that in the New Year, a cod total allowable catch can be negotiated between the UK and Norway that will not see a 20 per cent cut, that was originally proposed.
The UK government welcomed the outcome of the talks. Richard Benyon, Minister for the Natural Environment and Fisheries, said: "This has been my third year attending these frustrating negotiations and I am delighted that we were able to secure the best possible deal for the UK fishing industry.
"The current Cod Recovery Plan has failed to deliver. It was my one of my priorities to ensure that days at sea for fishermen would remain the same next year and that is exactly what has been achieved.
Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said: “Considerable credit has to go to the Scottish and UK Governments for their negotiating stance, which has ensured that a common-sense approach on fisheries management based on the science has been adopted. We were facing the very real danger of the decision-making being caught in legal red tape that would have caused immense economic hardship and done nothing to aid fish stock conservation and sustainable harvesting.
“Fishing effort in Scotland has been slashed by almost 70 per cent over the last 10 years and we were quite simply at a stage where the fleet could not sustain any more cuts. These were hard fought negotiations but on balance the package of measures agreed brings a degree of stability for the Scottish fleet in 2013.”
The Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, was also pleased with the quota deal, after securing a value of €213 million for the country.
Minister Coveney said: “I am pleased that we have secured a good deal for Irish fishermen at the EU Fisheries Council that will support our fishing industry over the coming year and which is sustainable in terms of the fish stocks on which we are dependant.”
European Fisheries Commissioner, Maria Damanaki said: "The Commission proposal was more ambitious but I think the outcome is satisfactory. It is a great achievement that we have better scientific advice for fish stocks. We moved from last year's situation, where we had 61,5 per cent data poor stocks, to 15,6 per cent this year.
"It's a great change. An agreement was achieved to reach sustainable exploitation levels (Maximum Sustainable Yield, MSY) by 2015 for the great majority of the stocks on which we have scientific advice. Only for four stocks Maximum Sustainable Yield will be reached by 2017: this is to avoid discards.
"This is a good message for our fishermen and for our citizens. We can have healthy stocks, more jobs and more income for our coastal communities. It can be done. If we have the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy in place next year, this will improve the decision making process and the progress made in the European Parliament this week gives us good hope."