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EU ministers set 2014 fishing quotas with eye to recovery of stocks

Source: Reuters - Wed, 18 Dec 2013 12:23 AM
Author: Reuters
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* Catch levels follow scientific advice in most cases

* Result will allow many fish stocks to recover by 2015

* System of quota setting to be overhauled from next year

BRUSSELS, Dec 18 (Reuters) - European Union fisheries ministers on Tuesday struck a deal on catch quotas for next year that will enable many fish stocks to recover to sustainable levels by 2015, the European Commission said.

The agreement was struck in record time, in stark contrast to the all-night haggling that has characterised negotiations in previous years.

The 28-nation bloc agreed changes to its fisheries policy earlier this year that will fix catch levels on the basis of scientific advice from 2015.

That meant this year's negotiations in Brussels would be the last chance for ministers to try to satisfy powerful domestic fishing industries by setting quotas above the strict limits proposed by the Commission, as in the past.

But ministers stuck to the Commission's advice for the majority of stocks, unlike previous years when they routinely set half of all quotas above levels recommended by scientists.

"We have an excellent outcome that everyone can be proud of," European fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki told reporters after the talks had concluded.

Where ministers did allow more catches, in most cases they were only modest increases over the EU executive's original proposal.

There were some exceptions, with governments rejecting calls for a 75 percent reduction in catches of Atlantic haddock in favour of a more modest 33 percent cut. Ministers also ignored a proposal to reduce herring catches in parts of the North Sea by almost two-thirds, preferring to maintain the quota at 2013 levels.

Environmental law firm ClientEarth said EU governments had made progress towards setting more sustainable quotas but that more could still be done.

"This is a good start, but we believe sustainable fishing levels should be the basis for exploitation of all stocks, not just some," Liane Veitch, science and policy adviser at the firm, said in a statement.

The requirement to fix quotas at sustainable levels from 2015 would allow over-fished stocks to rebuild, resulting in more profits for the fishing industry and healthier marine ecosystems, Veitch added. (Reporting by Charlie Dunmore; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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