Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs
I have recently returned from the EU Fisheries Council on European fishing opportunities for 2017. I am grateful to fisheries and recreational angling representatives with whom I recently met to help identify the key stocks of interest to Wales. As the industry has already undertaken voluntary sustainability measures and produced clear socio-economic evidence, I was able to make a strong case when I met with the Presidency and Commission alongside Ministerial colleagues, George Eustice MP, the Defra Minister of State, Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, Scottish Government, and Michelle McIlveen MLA, Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Northern Ireland Government.
In line with our commitments on sustainable natural resource management, my priority was to safeguard fish stocks, whilst also securing a positive outcome for those coastal communities whose economies depend so much on the sea. There is a need to fish at sustainable levels based on the best available scientific advice. Finding the right balance in the negotiations was a challenge.
I am pleased to inform Members earlier this morning, we were successful in securing a deal on Wales’ priorities. These were:
1. Commercial Sea Bass Fishery - The retention of the use of selective netting within the seabass fishery. This was a significant challenge as the stock remains in a recovering state. However, working within the overall sustainable envelope, we secured a modest increase to allow catches of 250 kg per month for netters. Initial proposals would have seen no provision at all for netting in 2017.
2. Recreational Sea Bass fishery – I made a case to increase the amount available to recreational angling, however, the Commission and Presidency could only justify a roll-over of arrangements from 2016 – namely catch and release for the first 6 months of the year followed by a one fish per day bag limit for the remainder of the year.
3. Commercially Important Species - in line with evidence, I negotiated a roll over in the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) on commercially important skates and rays and sole in the Bristol Channel. The proposal was for a cut in both of these species, however, a 5% increase in Skate and Ray and an 8% increase in sole were agreed.
I believe a strong and fair balance was struck between protecting the economic interests of small-scale fishers and recreational anglers with the need to move stocks toward the position where they can be fished sustainably into the future.