UK agrees deal on mackerel fishing with Norway and the Faroe Islands

UK agrees deal on mackerel fishing with Norway and the Faroe Islands

Scottish pelagic fishermen have given a cautious welcome to a suite of agreements reached between the UK, Norway and Faroe on the Northeast Atlantic mackerel fishery waters. The deal will cover the coming three years, with an option to extend it thereafter.

The new agreements, which cover quota shares, quota transfers and access arrangements, were hard won, with all sides making uncomfortable compromises.

Ian Gatt, chief executive of the SFPA, said: “The primary objective of these deals is to reduce pressure on the mackerel stock by cutting fishing mortality significantly.

“It was not easy, given that while they cut down Norway’s and Faroe’s share of the total allowable catch for this stock, with an increase in the UK’s share, they grant Norwegian and Faroese vessels access to UK waters to fish part of their quotas.

“In this sense, the agreements go further than the industry in an ideal world would have liked, but it was the responsible thing to do. This provides the foundation building blocks to create a comprehensive coastal states agreement in the future.”

Simon Collins, executive officer of the SFA, added: “Mixed though the package inevitably is, with clear positives alongside concessions on access to our waters, there can be no question that the UK would have never been able to strengthen its improved position in this fishery had it still been in the EU.

“It is now critical that we monitor access conditions carefully while encouraging the remaining coastal states – the EU, Iceland and Greenland – into a comprehensive arrangement that fully safeguards the future of this important stock.

“The industry also hopes to see progress on sharing arrangements for the other key pelagic stocks – Atlanto-Scandian herring and blue whiting.”

At the talks, the Delegations reaffirmed their commitment to continuing to engage in the intensive consultations between coastal States to agree a sustainable and comprehensive quota-sharing arrangement for the stock. They reiterated their determination to cooperate in reducing the fishing pressure on the stock.

In the absence of a comprehensive quota-sharing arrangement for the stock, the Delegations noted the importance of implementing responsible interim management measures. Although the mackerel stock is within safe biological limits, these measures should aim to bring benefits to the long-term condition of the stock, while discussions to agree quota shares for all coastal States continue.

In the absence of a comprehensive quota-sharing arrangement for the stock, and on condition that they implement their bilateral arrangements with each other on mackerel, the Delegations decided they would set the following national quotas, before transfers, for 2024: - the Faroe Islands would set a national quota of 98,708 tonnes based on a coastal State share of 13.35% of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC); - Norway would set a national quota of 229,210 tonnes based on a coastal State share of 31% of the TAC; and - the UK would set a national quota of 203,211 tonnes based on a coastal State share of 27.48%1 of the TAC.

The Delegations confirmed that, should there still be no comprehensive sharing arrangement for the stock, the Faroe Islands and Norway would set their national quotas at the same percentages of the TAC for 2025 and 2026. They further noted that, in these circumstances, the UK would set its national quota at 27.83%1 of the TAC.

The Delegations noted their intention to set their national quotas at the same percentages after 2026 should there continue to be no comprehensive sharing arrangement, or unless one or more parties provides at least 12 months’ notice of their intention to withdraw from this arrangement.

The Delegations further decided that each party may transfer to the following year unutilised quantities of up to 10% of their national quota (including from 2023 to 2024). The quantity transferred shall be in addition to the national quota to the party concerned in the following year. This quantity cannot be transferred further to subsequent years.

The Delegations also decided that each party may authorise fishing by its vessels of up to 10% beyond the national quota it has set for that year. All quantities fished beyond the set quota for that year will be deducted from the party's allocated quota for the following year.

The Delegations noted that contribution to science is vital for obtaining a robust evidence base on the abundance and distribution of the stock, which is needed to both generate advice on how to manage the stock sustainably and to establish a basis for quota shares. The Delegations confirmed that they would continue to contribute significantly to the major international dedicated mackerel surveys used in the stock assessment in ICES.

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