Fishing quotas are the lifeblood of our industry. They define how much fish each fleet is allowed to catch year on year. All individual quotas together form the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for each fish stock. The setting of the TACs for all fish stocks are – based on scientific advice – crucial in guaranteeing the long term sustainability of the fish stocks we harvest. Fish stocks may be renewable, but unless they are managed properly, they are also finite.
The current distribution of fishing quotas in the EU is based on the 1983 sharing agreement.* Signed by all EU countries, including the United Kingdom, the agreement stood as major step forward in the evolution of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). It introduced the principle of relative stability and provided for conservation management measures based on total allowable catches (TACs) and quotas. The quota distribution key it put in place took into account the historical practices – the catches realized during the period 1973-1978 by Member States of the EU. The United Kingdom was a full member of the EU at the time of the sharing agreement negotiations and therefore extensively participated in the discussions on the allocation key. The reference period chosen (1973-1978) coincides with the time when the UK became member of the EU.
Also, specific local considerations, such as the presence of fisheries dependent communities in each Member State, were taken into account, when deciding the allocation keys for the various fish stocks. The United Kingdom was one of the two Member States at the time benefiting from this clause, known as the Hague Preferences.
Still, there is a widespread view within the British fishing sector that the current quota allocation policy solely benefits the EU 27’s interest. Some see the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union as an opportunity to recalibrate the decision of 1983, and thus increase the British share of available fishing resources. This is somewhat misguided.
As representatives of European fishing fleets, we believe that the TAC & Quota system, including the instrument of international quota swaps, should continue to reflect the economic and historical (traditional) equilibrium of the sector. We see no rationale in changing the system currently in place as it provided the basis for the sustainable management of the many shared stocks as well as stability and continuity for both the EU and UK industries. As such, the future framework of co-operation between the EU-27 and the UK should continue to draw upon the 1983 agreement, the subsequent evolutions of the CFP and the core principle of fisheries management obligations enshrined in international fisheries law, in particular the UNCLOS and UNFSA.
*See (EEC) Regulation No 170/83