March 1, 2021

Spain “softens” the cuts in Brussels, but does not prevent the outrage of the sector




After 46 hours of negotiations, the European Ministers of Fisheries reached an agreement by which they extend during the first three months of 2021 the quotas of the species affected by Brexit -119 out of 146 fisheries- pending the outcome of the negotiations between London and Brussels. In the case of the Spanish Gran Sol fleet -88 vessels and 2,150 direct jobs- they will be able to fish up to 60% of the quota in species such as mackerel, horse mackerel or blue whiting. On the other hand, Mediterranean trawlers will see their fishing days cut short 7.5% over the next year (in 2020 they were already 10%). Half of the original Commission proposal (15%), something that is seen as a “failure” by the sector.

What has been decided about Brexit and how does it affect Spain?

European Fisheries Ministers have opted for an interim solution given the uncertainty surrounding the negotiations with the UK: 2020 quota extension during the first three months of next year, in those species or fisheries affected by Brexit (119 out of 146), with the possibility of fishing up to 25% of the entire quota in this period, and up to 65% in the case of species of great interest to the Spanish fleet such as mackerel, blue whiting and horse mackerel.

Spain is part of the group of eight affected EU countries, and only in British waters, fish 88 Spanish ships that generate 2,150 direct jobs; and they annually fish around 9,000 tons, mainly hake, rooster and monkfish.

How are commercial relations with the United Kingdom in fisheries matters?

Trade between the UK and Spain, in terms of fisheries, is not very intense. We have exported to English soil, in recent years, an average of 21,000 tons of fish for a value of 95 million euros, with a significant decline in 2018. In parallel, Spain has imported from London an annual average of 43,000 tons of fish products in recent years, for 246 million euros. 96% were fresh and frozen seafood.

What happened to the 15% cut in fishing days, proposed by Brussels, for the Mediterranean trawl fleet?

Spain is the country with the largest affected fleet, 597 ships and some 3,000 direct jobsDespite having stood up alongside Italy (680 boats) and France (63 boats), it has managed to reduce the “snip” from the initial 15% to 7.5%. Planas, in a statement at the end of the Council, described the agreement as “positive”, since «Guarantees the continuity of the traditional fishing activity». Agriculture defends that the result improves the intentions of Brussels in 9,176 days: 17 more working days on average per boat.

What about other species of great interest to the Spanish fleet such as southern hake or sole?

The Brussels cuts in fishing quotas for 2021, in general terms, have been smoothed after the negotiation: Such is the case of the southern hake (Cantabrian, Gulf of Cádiz and Portugal), where the original proposal of the European Commission was for a reduction in the volume of catches of 13%. Finally, what is agreed is 5%.

For its part, in the case of sole of the national fishing ground, the claims of Brussels have also been lowered, which proposed a reduction of quota of 41.5%. In the end, it has been managed to leave at 20%. Another similar case is that of Norway lobster from the Gulf of Cádiz whose share will decrease by 15%, when the Commission was betting on 20%. Special mention deserves the Cantabrian anchovy whose volume of catches has been set at 33,000 tonnes, increasing 3.5% compared to 2020.

Has the uncertainty disappeared, after the extension of quotas for species affected by Brexit?

No. From the fishing employer Cepesca, its general secretary Javier Garat, explains to ABC that the sector’s commitment is “a long-term agreement, minimum of 25 years to know in which framework we move ». What shipowners and fishermen do not want is “to be pending each year to negotiate access to fishing grounds and quotas.” In this sense, Garat asks the community authorities to continue supporting them and “linked the trade agreement to the fishing agreement and vice versa, because if we resign, the United Kingdom will do whatever it wants,” he says.

How are the other agreements adopted, especially the one referring to the trawl fleet, evaluated from the fishing sector?

For the sector, Spanish fishing, loses out with the agreement in Brussels. In the case of the Western Mediterranean trawl fleet. Garat remembers that it rains in the wet: the boats this year have already had to reduce your fishing days “between 15 and 19%”, and launched other measures such as closures or new techniques of selectivity of fishing. “Trawling is the art with which more species are caught, and the engine of many fish markets in the Mediterranean”, he concludes.

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