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December Fish Council Conclusions

Brussels, 16th December 2009. After lengthy and difficult discussions, the Council reached agreement on fishing opportunities for 2010 on 15 December.

In a press conference, Sweden's Minister for Agriculture Erlandsson and Fisheries Commissioner Borg welcomed the agreement declaring it as an important step towards sustainable fisheries within the EU. Erlandsson stressed that the Commission Proposal had been based on scientific advice, whilst Borg clarified that the proposal also tried to lessen the short-term burden on the catching sector.

Indeed for some species strong measures were agreed, including the ending of all fishing for porbeagle sharks in line with the new EU Plan of Action for Sharks. However, for other species Seas At Risk sees no such reasons for satisfaction, as again the Commission proposed and Ministers agreed higher TACs than advised by the scientists - despite the Commissionís own critique on this unsustainable annual ritual earlier this year in its Green Paper on the CFP reform. Some examples are:

- A rollover of the TAC for Celtic Sea Cod against the scientific advice of 25% reduction;

- An increase by 15% of the Southern Hake TAC allowing for 9300 t, almost twice as much as scientists advised;

- A 25% TAC reduction for West of Scotland haddock, rather than the advised closure of the fishery.;

- The re-opening of anchovy fisheries in the Bay of Biscay on 1 January 2010 (7000 t), despite the lack of scientific advice by ICES on the status of the stock, which will only become available in spring 2010.

Seas At Risk and the Fisheries Secretariat sent a letter to all Ministers and the Commission in advance of the Council meeting, pleading that Ministers follow scientific advice from ICES at all times, ensure that fishing opportunities are in line with the aim to recover and rebuild stocks to sustainable levels (with an ultimate target beyond MSY), and apply existing long-term management plans, when evaluated to be in line with the precautionary approach. Seas At Risk regrets that these recommendations were largely ignored.

The draft regulation does not include final figures for jointly managed stocks with Norway. Negotiations with Norway on those stocks failed earlier this year, due to disagreement between the parties regarding TACs for mackerel, and will only be resumed in January 2010. As a general rule and until agreement is reached with Norway, 65% of the current 2009 TAC applies provisionally as regards stocks jointly managed with Norway.

Council Press Release
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SAR/FISH briefing to the December Council of Fisheries Ministers
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Annex 1 to SAR/FISH letter to Ministers
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Annex 2 to SAR/FISH letter to Ministers
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Photograph by Florence Forrest