Image: A fish buyer examines a Haddock before the start of the daily auction at the fish market in Grimsby, Britain November 17, 2015. REUTERS/Phil Noble
By Julia Fioretti
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union agreed limits for how much fish can be caught next year in the Atlantic and North Sea, although environmental groups said on Wednesday some of the quotas were still too high.
Ministers, intent on protecting the livelihoods of fishermen, raised many of the limits proposed by the executive European Commission in its reformed Common Fisheries Policy in 2014, designed to end decades of overfishing and help stocks recover.
The catch limit for sole in the Eastern English Channel will be cut by 14 percent instead of 32 percent as initially proposed by the Commission, the French Secretary of State for Fisheries Alain Vidalies said.
The catch limits for some cod stocks were cut by 19 percent instead of the original proposal of 30 percent, something campaign group Greenpeace said was concerning, while fishermen will be able to catch 15 percent more cod than last year in the North Sea.
Catch limits for sole fished in the North Sea were increased by 10 percent and those for Northern hake by 10 percent since the stocks are sustainably managed.
Under the new policy, the Commission aims to set catch limits at levels that ensure fish stocks never drop below the minimum level at which they can be fished without having an impact on the long-term stability of the population.
All fish stocks should be healthy enough to be fished at a rate that delivers the highest long-term catch, known as the “maximum sustainable yield”, by 2015 or 2020 at the latest.
“Aiming for maximum sustainable yield closer to the end date of 2020 is too risky. It is therefore in everyone’s interest to avoid high cuts at the end,” said EU Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner Karmenu Vella.
The Commission said that 36 fish stocks were being fished sustainably, up from 5 in 2009.
Environmental campaigners at the Pew Charitable Trust said by setting limits too high the ministers were just making it harder for fishermen to reach the 2020 deadline, while Oceana called the agreement “disappointing”.
The catch limits will apply as of Jan. 1 2016.
In addition, as of next year fishermen will no longer be able to discard fish that are accidentally caught, meaning they will be counted against the quotas. However the EU also agreed some quota “top-ups” to compensate fishermen hit by the discard ban.
(Reporting by Julia Fioretti; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)
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