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Common Fisheries Policy (CFP)

The UK’s fishing industry is regulated at an EU level by the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and managed in England by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), Marine Scotland in Scotland, Natural Resources Wales in Wales and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland.

Under the CFP, every year, the European Commission proposes a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for each commercial species for each area within the EU 200-mile limit. TACs are then shared between EU countries in the form of national quotas. The TACs are agreed by the Council of Ministers at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council – normally with some increases from the original proposals – at the end of the year.

This year’s meeting will be held on 12 and 13 December. The negotiations at this meeting, are the first such negotiations since the UK voted to leave the EU. Prior to the referendum, the vast majority of fishermen said they would vote for Brexit.

Key issues for the fishing industry in 2017

2017 quota limits

The 2017 quota limits will be agreed at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting on 12 and 13 December 2016. On 27 October, the European Commission published its proposed fishing opportunities for the Atlantic and North Sea for 2017.  The Commission proposes to maintain or increase the current fishing quotas for 42 stocks which are in good health, and reduce catches for 28 stocks which are faring poorly.

Sea bass: Declining stocks and management plans

Emergency measures to protect declining stocks of sea bass were first introduced in 2015. These measures placed limits on commercial trawlers and recreational fishermen. The emergency measures were extended into 2016. And on the advice of ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea), many of these measures will continue in 2017. The Commission expected the emergency measures for sea bass to be in place for up to seven years.

Discard ban

The discarding of unwanted fish at sea is one of the most controversial issues of the CFP, and a key reform for the 2014-20 CFP was the implementation of a phased ban on discarding fish. This ban has been phased in through 2015 and 2016. And it will continue in 2017. From 2015, fishermen targeting pelagic quota species had to land all the fish they caught. In 2016, the discard ban was extended to demersal fisheries. Demersal fish swim at or near the bottom of the sea (e.g. flounder, sole, turbot, plaice, and halibut).

Quota for the under-10 metre fleet

Some fishermen are concerned about the process of quota allocation, in particular the low proportion of quota allocated to smaller boats. The under ten metre fleet are considered to be more environmentally friendly than larger boats.

Associated documents

HC Library briefing paper: UK Sea Fisheries Statistics (published 30 November 2016), which examines trends in the UK sea fishing industry, including landings, employment, fleet size, trade, and comparisons with other EU countries.


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