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Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe (CPMR)

Commission approves emergency measures to protect #EasternBalticCod

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The Commission has announced emergency measures to save the ailing eastern Baltic cod stock from impending collapse. Emergency measures will ban, with immediate effect, commercial fishing for cod in most of the Baltic Sea until 31 December 2019.

Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner Karmenu Vella said: "The impact of this cod stock collapsing would be catastrophic for the livelihoods of many fishermen and coastal communities all around the Baltic Sea. We must urgently act to rebuild the stock – in the interest of fish and fishermen alike. That means responding rapidly to an immediate threat now, through the emergency measures the Commission is taking. But it also means managing the stock – and the habitat it lives in – properly in the long term."

The ban will come into force immediately and last until 31 December 2019. It will cover all fishing vessels and apply in all those areas of the Baltic Sea where the largest part of the stock is present (i.e. subdivisions 24-26), except for some specific targeted derogations. It follows measures that have already been taken by some member states. Given that these measures do not ensure a uniform approach in all areas where the eastern Baltic cod stock is found, and that not all Member States intend to adopt national measures, the Commission has decided that further emergency action is warranted.

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While this fishing ban is an essential immediate step to help protect this vulnerable stock, the Commission and member states will revisit the need for longer-term action later in the year, when Ministers meet to decide on next year's fishing opportunities. Scientists also warn of many factors besides fishing that threaten the stock and that need to be addressed separately, including a lack of salinity, too high water temperatures and too little oxygen, as well as parasite infestation.

Background

Recent scientific analysis has reinforced concerns regarding eastern Baltic cod: we are witnessing a rapid decline of the stock that risks leading to a collapse if no action is taken. International scientific bodies have therefore called for a complete fishing stop to turn the situation around. The Commission has analyzed the scientific evidence available and has discussed these measures with the member states at an Expert Committee meeting.

Following scientific advice, total allowable catches for eastern Baltic cod have already been reduced every year since 2014, from 65 934t down to 24 112t in 2019. Even so, in the last years fishermen only used up between 40-60% of the total allowable catch, probably due to a lack of fish of commercial size. Indeed, according to scientists, the volume of commercial sized cod (>= 35 cm) is currently at the lowest level observed since the 1950s. This year, fishermen have so far used around 21% of their available quota.

Eastern Baltic cod used to be one of the most valuable fish on which many fishermen depend. More than 7,000 fishing vessels from all eight EU Member States catch eastern Baltic cod, with 182 vessels from Lithuania and Poland depending on this stock for more than 50% of their catches.

Under the Common Fisheries Policy, the Commission may, at the reasoned request of a Member State or on its own initiative, take emergency measures to alleviate a serious threat to the conservation of marine biological resources. These measures may be applicable for a maximum period of six months. The Commission has previously taken such emergency measures to protect vulnerable stocks, namely for anchovy in the Bay of Biscay and for northern seabass.

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Map on Baltic fishing zones

Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe (CPMR)

Fishing rules: Compulsory CCTV for certain vessels to counter infractions

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Parliament has adopted its negotiating position on the new Fisheries Control system, which will reform the rules that have governed EU fishing activities since 2010. Plenary session  PECH

By 401 votes in favour, 247 against and 47 abstentions, MEPs agreed to use new technologies to better enforce fishing rules and improve security and transparency. They also insist that consumers must know when, where and how the products they buy are caught.

The use of on-board cameras (CCTV) to carry out checks on landing obligations should be compulsory for a “minimum percentage” of vessels longer than 12 meters and which have been identified as “posing a serious risk of non-compliance”. The equipment will also be imposed as an accompanying sanction for all vessels that commit two or more serious infringements. Vessels that are willing to adopt CCTV on a voluntary basis should be offered incentives such as additional allocation of quotas or having their infringement points removed.

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MEPs back the proposal to harmonise sanctions and demand that a “European Union Register” of infringements be set up to centralise information from all member states. They also call for an “appropriate system of sanctions” for infringements committed by recreational fishermen.

Reduce waste, increase security and transparency

In line with the EU’s Farm-to-Fork Strategy, Parliament demands that the origin of fishery and aquaculture products must be traceable throughout the whole food chain, including processed and imported products. Data on the species of fish, the location, date and time it was caught, and the type of gear used should be made available.

lara AGUILERA (S&D, ES), rapporteur, said: “We took important steps towards having common rules. Inspections on fisheries in Spain must not differ from those in Denmark, Poland or Italy. They must be harmonised and more efficient, without resulting in more red tape for the sector.”

In an effort to reduce marine litter, MEPs agree that all vessels should be obliged to notify national authorities when they lose fishing gear and to carry on board the necessary equipment to retrieve it.

All vessels should also be equipped with a geolocation device allowing them to be automatically located and identified, a measure deemed necessary to improve security at sea, according to the adopted text.

Parliament also proposes to increase the margin of error accepted on the weight of some species estimated by fishermen on board (margin of tolerance).

Next Steps

With today’s vote, Parliament is now ready to start negotiations with Council. According to the current proposal, operators would have four years following the entry into force of the rules to equip vessels with the new technologies required.

Background

On 5 February, the Committee on Fisheries adopted its position regarding the EU’s Fisheries Control system. The proposal updates five existing regulations and harmonise control and inspection systems, as well as sanctions, across EU countries.

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Britain secured a good deal on fish, says senior member of negotiating team

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A trade deal between Britain and the European Union is a good agreement for the fisheries industry, allowing it to rebuild itself during a five-and-a-half year transition, a senior member of the UK’s negotiating team said on Tuesday (29 December), write Elizabeth Piper and Paul Sandle.

Fisheries groups have criticized the deal, saying the industry had been sacrificed in the post-Brexit trade talks.

“The deal we’ve got recognises UK sovereignty over our fishing waters, it says that up front,” the senior member of the negotiating team said.

“We think this is a good deal. This enables the fishing industry to rebuild itself during the transition, we are investing £100 million into programmes to help modernize the fish processing industry over this period,” he said.

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Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe (CPMR)

AGRIFISH Council: Ministers decide fishing opportunities for 2021 in the North-East Atlantic and for deep-sea stocks

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On 17 December, the Council agreed on fishing opportunities for 2021 for the fish stocks managed by the EU in the North-East Atlantic, based on a proposal made by the Commission. As regards stocks that will be shared with the UK, The Council also decided as a transition measure to proportionally roll over the 2020 total allowable catches (TACs), with a few limited exceptions, as proposed by the Commission. This will ensure fishing opportunities in the exceptional circumstances surrounding the still ongoing negotiations on the future relationship between the EU and the UK. These measures complement the Commission's contingency proposal from last week, which provides for the possibility of reciprocal fishing access by EU and UK vessels to each other's waters, if and when agreed between the EU and the UK, and all conditions for the continuation of the EU fishing operations have been met.

Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “I am very pleased that for the stocks the EU is managing on its own, we have brought eight total allowable catches in line with the levels that guarantee the maximum sustainable yields from those stocks. EU ministers have followed my proposals on the precautionary approach for nine fish catch quotas. This is a step in the right direction. The Commission proposal was very ambitious and I welcome today's overall good outcome. We have also managed to respond to the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, and secure continued fishing for all EU fishermen and women. Vessels can take to the sea on 1 January 2021 and the fishing sector can be reassured that their business is recognized as a priority for the EU.”

The Council has also decided on sustainable catch limits for southern seabass (Bay of Biscay) in line with maximum sustainable yield (MSY). The Council has continued the protection of the vulnerable deep-sea sharks through a prohibition of fishing of this species. In line with the Commission proposal, the Council has agreed to set very limited bycatch for cod in Kattegat (123 tonnes), and roundnose grenadier in Skagerrak and Kattegat (5 tonnes), and a scientific TAC for nephrops in the southern Bay of Biscay (2.4 tonnes). More information is available Commissioner Sinkevičius' press statement and online.

Based on the Commission's proposal, EU ministers agreed fishing opportunities for 2021 for the Mediterranean and the Black Seas. Sinkevičius said: “In line with our political commitments made in the MedFish4Ever and Sofia Declarations, we implemented in EU law ambitious measures taken in the context of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM). On the Western Mediterranean multiannual plan, I regret that ministers were not ready to agree on higher effort reductions, which would have allowed us to restore the fish stocks to sustainable levels faster and to ensure the long-term social and economic viability of the fishermen and women operating in the region. I welcome, however, that the effort reduction will be accompanied by additional national measures to protect the stocks."

For the Mediterranean, the regulation agreed by ministers continues the implementation of the EU multiannual management plan for demersal stocks in the Western Mediterranean, adopted in June 2019, by reducing the fishing effort by 7.5%. The Regulation also introduces measures adopted by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean in 2018 and 2019, in particular measures for eel, red coral, dolphinfish, small pelagic species and demersal stocks in the Adriatic and deep water shrimps stocks in the Ionian Sea, Levant Sea and the Strait of Sicily. For the Black Sea, the quotas for turbot and sprat are maintained at the 2020 level. More information is available Commissioner Sinkevičius' press statement and online.

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