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EU Council of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers

"The agreement to extend the total allowable catches and quotas in shared fisheries provides continuity for Spanish fleet activity", says Luis Planas

Tuesday 23 March 2021

"This is a very positive agreement that provides continuity for activity by the Spanish fleet", stressed the Spanish minister.

Following unanimous approval from the eight countries affected by the fishing negotiations with the United Kingdom, the agreement reached on Tuesday enables the continuity of Spanish fishing activity while "a good agreement" was reached with the United Kingdom, according to Luis Planas.

The Spanish minister explained that the operational nature of the fleet is guaranteed under this seven-month extension without compromising the ongoing talks between the European Commission and the United Kingdom, and unity is maintained between Member States ahead of the possibility of reaching an agreement in April to set the definitive TAC for 2021.

The agreement includes the possibility of fishing 58.3% of the quota up to 31 July, although this may be increased for certain fish species accounting for the majority of catches during the first half of the year and that require larger quotas for the first months of the year.

Luis Planas explained that this responds to the demand made by Spain - alongside France, Germany and Ireland - to increase flexibility when setting quotas due to the seasonality of certain fisheries, such as anglerfish or megrim in Zone 6, which are highly important for the fleet operating in the Sole Bank.

The Spanish minister explained that the provisional quotas set up to 31 March for most stocks in the decision from the Council of Ministers of December 2020 are extended to 31 July, albeit with a different focus.

The scientific recommendations for 2021 and the possible result of consultations with the United Kingdom (as well as the distribution criteria agreed under the Brexit Agreement) have already been taken into consideration to produce a seven-month apportionment (58.3%) of the possible definitive TAC figures.

This is the case for the stocks of special interest to Spain, such as hake, anglerfish and megrim on the Sole Bank, Bay of Biscay and west of Scotland, nephrops on the Porcupine Bank, sea bream and alfonsino, with a significant increase in fishing options for the Spanish fleet pending a final agreement.

Important agreement on Atlantic mackerel

It has been possible to set TAC and quotas definitively for the year as a whole for certain stocks following incorporation of the agreements with Norway. This is the case with Atlantic mackerel. In the coming days, the outstanding quantities will be allocated to ships and fleets in order to enable normal rollout of this seasonal fishery, which has already commenced.

Increases have also been obtained for other important species, for which Spain has no allocation but does engage in by-catches. These increases involve the cod stocks to the west of Scotland and in the Celtic sea, where the exchanges set up since 2019 allow for access by Member States with allocation to precise quantities in order to cover the quota needs of their fleets. Furthermore, the availability of species contained in the choke species swap mechanism has been increased to 58.3%.

This will make it easier for Spanish ships to comply with the landing obligation given that the quantities established by the Regulation will be made available in the coming weeks, on a compulsory basis for Member States with an allocation.

A commitment agreement was also reached to facilitate application of the Brexit Agreement in terms of transferral to the United Kingdom of the ICCAT bluefin tuna quota, which will be provisionally applied for 2021 without this creating a precedent for subsequent years.

The countries affected by the transfer of Svalbard cod to the United Kingdom "have reached a joint declaration with the European Commission to guarantee the search for suitable solutions capable of reflecting the rights of Member States under the 1920 Paris Agreement", while always respecting relative stability, said Luis Planas.

Non official translation