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Fishing Negotiations 2024: UK-EU-Norway

Volume 742: debated on Thursday 14 December 2023

I would like to make the following statement.

Conclusion of annual negotiations for 2024 fishing opportunities

The UK has reached agreement with the EU and Norway on catch opportunities for 2024 through the UK-EU-Norway trilateral and UK-EU bilateral negotiations. Across these negotiations, the UK secured agreement on over 80 total allowable catches (TACs), providing access to £700 million of UK fishing opportunities. Alongside the coastal state negotiations on stocks including mackerel, this brings the total UK fishing opportunities secured in 2024 to 750,000 tonnes, worth an estimated £970 million based on historic landing prices. This is an increase from £900 million in 2023 and an increase in total tonnes of fishing opportunities.

Further, since leaving the EU, the UK has a larger share of many of the TACs set at these negotiations. It is estimated that the UK might have received around 630,000 tonnes of fishing opportunities if we were still an EU member state, in comparison to the 750,000 tonnes actually received. That is an estimated increase of 120,000 tonnes of fishing opportunities for the UK fleet in 2024. The UK’s shares in these stocks will continue to increase until the end of the 5½ year adjustment period.

In these negotiations the UK Government worked closely with the Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive to secure outcomes to improve the sustainable management of our fish stocks in support of the whole of the UK fishing industry.

UK-EU agreement

The UK has secured fishing opportunities of 130,000 tonnes, worth around £340 million based on historic landing prices, through agreement on around 70 TACs as well as agreement on arrangements for non-quota stocks. This is a decrease of around 10,000 tonnes compared to 2023, largely driven by declining scientific advice on sustainable catch levels in the Celtic and Irish Seas.

An initial estimate suggests that approximately 35% of UK-EU TACs were set to align with scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). This is a slight increase on last year. The Government will publish early in 2024 a full assessment of the number of TACs set consistent with ICES advice across all annual negotiations.

For non-quota stocks (NQS), the UK and the EU agreed a roll-over of access arrangements for 2024 to ensure continued access to fish NQS in EU waters. UK fleet landings for these stocks are historically worth around £30 million a year. We also agreed to a roll-over of management measures for seabass and access arrangements for spurdog in the North Sea and albacore tuna.

Scientific advice for 2024 illustrates the declining health or vulnerable state of some stocks, particularly in the Celtic and Irish Seas. The UK and EU therefore made additional commitments to work together through the Specialised Committee on Fisheries to address the management challenges of certain stocks. This includes reviewing the effectiveness of measures to protect spurdog, and continuing to progress work on technical measures to support the recovery of depleted stocks in the Celtic and Irish Seas. For pollack in ICES areas 6 and 7, the UK and EU committed to work through the SCF to improve our understanding of the stock and the recreational fishery with a view to the introduction of limits where appropriate and where these are likely to be effective in reducing pressure on the stock.

UK-EU-Norway trilateral negotiations

The UK has also reached agreement with Norway and the EU on catch limits for 2024 for six jointly managed North Sea stocks, giving the UK fishing fleet access to opportunities worth around £360 million, based on historic landing prices.

The parties agreed increased TACs for the six stocks. Five of the six stocks were set in line with, or below, independent scientific advice from ICES. This included an approach to northern shelf cod that reflects the new status of the stock following new advice from ICES, and a modest increase in the TAC of 15% reflecting the increasing stock biomass. For two stocks, North Sea haddock and whiting, the parties agreed to take a more precautionary approach than the scientific advice given the extent of the advised potential increases.

The parties renewed their commitment to deliver long-term management plans for their shared stocks and have agreed to continue development in 2024 of more effective management measures for the North Sea herring fishery, focusing on stability for industry and sustainability. The parties also agreed to their shared ambition to move northern shelf anglerfish (monkfish) to a trilaterally-managed stock, and agreed to continue building on the work undertaken in 2023 on monitoring, control and surveillance of their shared stocks.

Multilateral ‘coastal states’ negotiations

The UK has agreed TACs at the level advised by ICES on the three widely distributed stocks we share with other coastal states in the North-East Atlantic: mackerel, blue whiting and Norwegian spring spawning/atlanto/Scandian herring. The opportunities will be worth up to £270 million to the UK fleet in 2024.

Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs)

The UK has continued to support the sustainable management of widely distributed and highly migratory stocks via Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) in which it is a member. RFMO negotiations this year have provided notable sustainability gains, as well as around 2,000 tonnes of fishing opportunities for 2024, including in north Atlantic albacore tuna, eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna and north-west Atlantic cod.

UK-Norway and UK-Faroe Islands bilateral negotiations

Bilateral negotiations between the UK and Norway and the UK and the Faroe Islands on access arrangements and exchanges of fishing opportunities are ongoing.