EM5 17 FISH QuotasA number of institutions are involved in deciding how much fish can be harvested from the sea

Fishing quotas have an immediate impact on the players in the fisheries sector and the release of the numbers is closely watched by all concerned. The route by which raw data is converted into the precise figures that are published as fishing quotas is long, with inputs from several institutions, and gives an idea of the enormous significance attached to these numbers.

Fish, individually or in swarms, can usually be found in places offering them the best for their lives: where they find food, where it is safe to reproduce and survive as species. Such preferences, together with environmental conditions, may vary from year to year, and hence the number of fish coming together may vary as well. Fishermen know where to find the fish and are familiar with annual fluctuations. Fishing grounds, when seen as fish habitats, do not feature national borders, whereas fishing vessels carry the flags of their home ports. Fish stocks which are international by nature thus have national owners when turned into catches. The subsets of these fishable stocks allocated to and harvested by sovereign states are called fishing quotas.

Sustainability is a term which has rapidly become an integral part of our everyday vocabulary. Once something of a fringe concept, it is now a fundamental consideration in almost everything we do. Ultimately, this stems from an ever-increasing understanding that the natural resources we consume are far from inexhaustible. Essentially, if we don’t modify our consumption to allow these resources to replenish themselves, then they will simply disappear.

Speakers at the North Atlantic Seafood Conferences widely acknowledged that many of the drivers moulding the reform of the EU’s Common Fishery Policy (CFP) have come from outside the fisheries sector. Celebrity chefs, NGOs, and the press have clearly spoken against discards, and retailers have been flexing their muscles as they demand that their suppliers prove that their seafood comes from sustainable fisheries.

Up to now, violation of regulations within the fisheries sector was punished differently by the individual EU member states. Something that was seen as a minor offence in one country could bring with it tough penalties in another. With the new fisheries control regulation which has been in force since 1 January 2010 the EU created an instrument for protecting fish resources better, fighting unfair competition, and thereby securing the future existence of honest fishermen.

Originally conceived as a one-time fisheries buy-out to reduce fishing pressure, the California Central Coast Groundfish project in the United States has evolved into a long-term fisheries ‘buy-in’ for an environmental organisation that has invested considerable funds, time, and staff to help struggling fishermen and local communities while simultaneously improving a fishery and habitat. The project story presented here provides insights for possible engagement strategies in Europe.

Is a glass half full or half empty? That depends on the individual’s point of view and what he or she chooses to emphasise. Data on fisheries faces the same issue – it can be read in different ways depending on who is doing the reading.

The negotiations between the EU and Norway on the one hand and Iceland and the Faroes on the other hand over the fishing of mackerel stocks in the North Atlantic are deadlocked. An agreement on the allocation of the fishing quotas is not in sight. This unacceptable situation is a risk to the sustainability of the mackerel fishery and presents to the world an example which could hardly be worse. Despite years of negotiations, civilised European states still haven’t managed to solve a fisheries conflict to the satisfaction of both parties.

Fisheries management is evolving and there is growing awareness that resource users should be more involved in decision-making and should supply information about resource status if fisheries management is to become sustainable.

‘Sharing of common stock among nations’ was the topic chosen for the fourth ComFish Regional Participatory Stakeholder Event (RPSE) held in Santander, Spain, in May 2013. Aimed at tackling specific fisheries issues of the European Atlantic waters, such as those relating to species caught in the Bay of Biscay and along the Iberian Coast as well as in the Celtic Sea basins, the event brought together a variety of stakeholders from the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and the UK.

One of the main objectives of every European Union (EU) country is to manage biological resources sustainably to preserve the natural environment for present and future generations. The negative impact on biological variety caused by humanity can result in the deterioration of valuable natural resources, which are then replaced by less valuable species.

Page 2 of 4