Agreement on 2016 fishing quota produces good result for the Netherlands

In Brussels, the EU Member States and the European Commission have reached an agreement regarding the fishing quota for 2016. The agreement contains important elements for the Dutch fisheries, such as the liberalisation of the provisions relating to the catch of sole and an unchanged number of days on which it is permitted to fish.

Minister for Agriculture, Martijn van Dam, speaks about the good result: 'Following intensive negotiations, we have reached positive agreements – especially in terms of the North Sea – that will result in healthy fish stocks in the long-term and good future prospects for the sector. Our effort was to reach an agreement that was sustainable and honest for both the fish and the fisheries. While this agreement complies with these criteria, I have noticed that the fight against overfishing is not given equal priority in all parts of Europe.

The number of sole in the North Sea has greatly increased in recent years, meaning that it is now possible to raise the fishing quota for this fish species - one that is very important to the Dutch fisheries sector - by 10%. In 2016, Dutch fishermen who are active in the North Sea may also catch the same amount of plaice, ray, dab, flounder, witch flounder and lemon dab as was permitted in 2015. The same applies to large argentines (herring smelt), the majority of which are caught in the waters to the west of Scotland. The fishing opportunities in terms of bass have been cut back drastically in order to allow the species to regenerate. However, small fisheries have been cushioned against this limit. All agreed fishing quotas are based on scientific advice, the principle of maximum sustainable yield and on multiannual plans that aim to tackle overfishing.

Landing obligation

During the meeting of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council, the Minister for Agriculture also spoke about the 'landing obligation,' which lays down that by-catch may no longer be cast back into the sea as of 1 January 2016. While the argument to delay the administrative obligations by six months fell on deaf ears, Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, announced his openness to a pragmatic approach when introducing the landing obligation. In light of this, at the beginning of January, the Netherlands will discuss the possibility of a modified form of the harmonised maintenance in the first half of 2016 with other EU Member States on the North Sea.

Systematic fishing quota

Each year, the European minsters for fisheries and the European Commission set the total allowable catches (TACs) for the different fish species. This is calculated on the basis of advice from bodies such as the International Council on the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and Scientific, Technical Economical Committee on Fisheries (STECF). The quota for the Dutch fisheries sector is then derived from the total catch amounts using a fixed allocation key.