Sustainability campaigners criticize UK-EU fisheries deal | Daily News Byte

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A new fishing deal between the UK and the EU threatens the sustainability of vulnerable fish stocks and goes against international scientific guidelines, environmental campaigners have said.

The agreement, the third signed by London and Brussels since Brexit, is part of an agreement to gradually increase the share of stocks allocated to UK fishing boats in shared waters.

Under the deal, the UK fishing industry will be allowed to catch 140,000 tonnes of fish worth more than £280mn in 2023, the government said on Tuesday. While the allocation remains the same as this year, its expected value is below £294mn.

“These catch limits show that the UK and EU are prepared to continue mismanaging the oceans,” said Charles Clover, executive director of the Blue Marine Foundation, an ocean conservation charity.

He added that the catch limit allocated for half of the shared stocks is above the sustainable level advised by scientists.

“Some limits have been agreed which are better than last year. . . But it is clear that the parties have again agreed to allow significant and demonstrable overfishing, taking into account 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 allowed overfishing of Irish sea whiting and Celtic sea herring, west of Scotland cod.

“While both parties follow the science for some stocks, we deeply regret their inability to make the right decision for stocks in the poorest conservation state,” said Vera Coelho, senior director of advocacy at Oceana in Europe.

“Overfishing is destroying fish populations in UK and EU waters. Cod numbers in the Celtic Sea, Irish Sea and west of Scotland have declined over the years and are at risk of collapse if urgent action is not taken,” she said.

Under the deal, the EU fleet could land 350,000 tonnes of fish, estimated to be worth around €1bn based on historical prices adjusted for inflation, according to the European Commission.

The distribution of fishing quotas, agreed when the UK left the bloc in January 2020, is fixed. However, the total catch allocation is negotiated annually after taking scientific advice. A trade and co-operation agreement signed in 2020 ensures the UK’s share rises to 25 per cent in 2021-26.

The UK said catch levels were set “wherever possible”, at or below levels advised by scientists at the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea.

The proportion of catch levels aligned with Ices recommendations increased by an estimated 13 percentage points compared to last year, indicating a modest improvement in efforts to meet environmental limits.

In 2022, catch limits of 65 percent of shared fisheries were set above scientific guidance, which has dropped 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 strengthening our joint commitment to sustainably manage fisheries.

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

EU Environment Commissioner Virginijas Sinkevicius said: “Today’s deal 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 life resources, provide our fishermen with certainty for the year ahead and establish a strong basis for continued co-operation with the UK in fisheries management”.

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