The Council has approved an agreement reached with the United Kingdom which secures the fishing rights of EU fishers in the Atlantic and the North Sea. The timely conclusion of the annual consultations for 2024 will ensure stability and certainty for EU fishers and for the industry.
“Our agreement with the United Kingdom secures important fishing opportunities for our fishers and was reached thanks to the good will demonstrated by both parties during the negotiations. We have ensured that our fishing rights in the Atlantic and the North Sea will continue to be protected in the coming year and we are living up to our sustainability commitments.”
Luis Planas Puchades, Spanish Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
The agreement in detail
The agreement reached in the EU-UK annual consultations determines fishing rights for 2024 for around 100 shared fish stocks, in particular the total allowable catches (TACs), that is, the maximum quantities of fish from specific stocks that can be caught, and each party’s respective fishing rights.
This agreement is part of the annual process of setting fishing opportunities in EU and non-EU waters for the coming year and it was endorsed via a written procedure.
At the Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting which will take place on 10 and 11 December, the figures for stocks shared with the UK will become part of the main regulation on fishing opportunities for the Atlantic and the North Sea. That regulation also covers stocks that the EU manages on its own or via agreements reached in the regional fisheries management organisations, in addition to the stocks shared with the UK and other third parties.
The EU and the UK based their agreement on the best scientific advice available, provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). The deal reached by the two parties is also in line with the objectives of the EU’s common fisheries policy and of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement concluded with the UK.
For stocks with no ICES advice, the EU and the UK agreed to work together to improve the availability of data to inform future scientific advice. On stocks with zero catch advice, delegations agreed that it would be appropriate to establish specific TACs for by-catches (species that are caught unintentionally, while fishing for other specific species). The level of these TACs has been set to ensure that fishing mortality does not increase and that the stock can be rebuilt. For some stocks a small TAC was set to allow continued monitoring of the stock.
In line with scientific advice, below are some of the stocks for which the EU and the UK agreed to decrease the TACs for 2024, compared to 2023:
- haddock in the Irish Sea (-14.5%) haddock in the Celtic Sea (-30.6%)
- whiting in the Celtic Sea (-50%)
- plaice by-catches in the English Channel (-42%)
Below are some examples of stocks for which the EU and the UK agreed to increase the TACs for 2024, compared to 2023:
- whiting in the West of Scotland (+20%)
- megrims in the North Sea (+9.6%)
Following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, fish stocks jointly managed by the EU and the UK are considered shared resources under international law. The Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the two parties sets out the terms under which the EU and the UK determine their respective fishing rights in the Atlantic and North Sea.
Under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, both parties agree to hold annual consultations with a view to determining TACs and quotas for the following year. Consultations are led by the Commission and take into account a number of factors, including:
- international obligations
- ensuring the long-term sustainability of fishing, in line with the EU’s common fisheries policy
- the best available scientific advice; when this is not available, a precautionary approach is taken
- the need to protect the livelihoods of fishers
The agreement includes a licensing system for fishing vessels through which mutual access to each other’s waters is granted.
The Council receives regular updates on the progress of the negotiations and its role is to:
- provide guidance to the Commission on the EU’s position
- approve the final agreement on the annual TACs and quotas before the formal conclusion of the consultations with the United Kingdom
During the Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting which will take place on 10 and 11 December, ministers will aim to reach a political agreement on the overall fishing opportunities in the Atlantic and the North Sea for 2024, and in some cases also for 2025 and 2026.
The figures for the EU-UK shared stocks will become part of that political agreement.
Subsequently, the text of the political agreement will be finalised by the Council’s legal and linguistic experts. After this, the regulation will be formally adopted by the Council and published in the Official Journal. The provisions will apply from 1 January 2024.