Next year will be stormy for fishing activity in the Cantabrian Sea, marked by generalized cuts in total allowable catches (TAC) or fishing opportunities, which are the maximum catch limits (in tonnes) that are established for the fish stocks of commercial interest. The cuts made in several species of deo for the Asturian fleet have left the quotas in minimums that had never been seen, especially in the case of hake, blue whiting, xarda (mackerel) and chicharro (horse mackerel). If the Council of European Fisheries Ministers held in the first fortnight of this month produced worrying news for the Asturian fleet in the form of a cut in the quota for coastal hake, the negotiations with the United Kingdom to set quotas in shared Atlantic waters give another A twist in the same direction: fewer tons of hake and pea.
Thus, for the northern hake (fishing grounds located in Gran Sol and French waters, among others) a reduction of the TAC of 20 percent has been agreed, a reduction that being notable is lower than that proposed by the scientific recommendation “But always within the ranges of sustainability”, as highlighted by the community authorities. The so-called northern hake is the one that the Asturian deep-sea longline vessels fish with hooks, part of which sells their catches in the Avilés rula and the rest, in Galician ports.
Asturian fishermen whose target species are the chicharro: a cut in the TAC of 12.58 percent – in accordance with the scientific recommendation formulated – that reduces the fishing opportunities for the species in coastal waters of the Cantabrian Sea to 8,710 tons compared to the 9,963 that were authorized for 2021. The horse mackerel or horse mackerel it is part of the quota negotiations with the United Kingdom as it is part of a broader biological population that includes British waters.
The largest cuts are applied for Norway lobster, hake, sole, chicharro, xarda, pollock, blue whiting and bocarte
Not all were cuts in the fisheries negotiations with the United Kingdom, an obligation arising from Brexit. In the case of roosters that are fished in high-water waters, an increase in the quota of 2.97 percent was agreed in the maritime areas of interest to the Asturian fleet. And for monkfish (pixin) the increase finally adopted was 8 percent in the same waters. Fisheries sources consulted assure that the greater possibilities of fishing for rooster and monkfish “do not compensate” for the loss of fishing rights for hake.
The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Luis Planas, valued that the fishing agreements with Great Britain “will provide the necessary stability to the Spanish fleet so that it can carry out a correct planning of its activity”. For Spain, the agreement is, in general terms, “satisfactory” since the catch levels set for the different populations of interest that are caught in the waters of France, Ireland and the United Kingdom “follow the available scientific recommendations, but minimizing the reductions in some fish stocks ”.
The Spanish delegation also values as “important” the quota setting agreed by Europe and the United Kingdom for those species for which Spain has no allocation but which may be “strangulation species” within the framework of the landing obligation. The TACs for deep-sea species (mainly sea bream and alfonsinos) are maintained and it is estimated that the quotas that Spain can acquire through existing exchange and exchange mechanisms (called “swaps” in technical jargon) will be sufficient to cover the levels of annual accidental catches of the Spanish fleet.
In the coming weeks, the process will begin for the transposition of this agreement into Community legislation through the annual TAC and quota Regulation and for which provisional quotas had been adopted for these fishing species shared with the United Kingdom for the first quarter of 2022. in the past Council of Ministers of Agriculture and Fisheries of the EU.
The more or less contained satisfaction of Minister Planas both with respect to the fishing agreement with Great Britain and in relation to the quotas agreed in the meeting in early December contrasts with the discomfort of Asturian fishermen, complaining because “it rains in the wet” and very concerned “because if in species such as hake the 2021 quota was not enough to fish the minimum tons that allow reaching the profitability threshold, with further cuts in 2022 it will be total ruin.”
As this newspaper has been reporting, The Asturian fishing fleet focuses its discomfort on the blow caused by the announcement of a new cut – 8.2 percent – of the maximum quota for hake catches that will be able to be done next year in Cantabrian waters, but the scenario is even more dramatic if the evolution of the quotas of the ten fisheries subject to community control and whose Total Allowable Catch (TAC) has also been agreed this month or late summer: pollock, blue whiting, bocarte, Norway lobster, chicharro (horse mackerel), rooster, sole, hake, pixin (monkfish) and xarda (mackerel).
Of these ten species, all of great interest to Asturian fishermen, eight have seen their quotas decrease since 2015, when Europe pressed the accelerator in its strategy of regulating fishing activity according to the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) criterion. From highest to lowest cut percentages practiced, this is the list: Norway lobster (75.86 percent), hake (44.8 percent), sole (39.21 percent), chicharro (37.91 percent), xarda (24.64 percent), haddock (28.37 percent), blue whiting (9.79 percent) and bocarte (4 percent, albeit at the expense of scientific reporting that could overturn the figure).
“In view of the null utility that fishing boats are beginning to have, we still have to plant them in the middle of the Puerta del Sol in Madrid to make them a tourist attraction”, Ironically a few days ago the president of the Federation of Fishermen’s Guilds of Asturias, Adolfo García Méndez. At the time, the new cuts agreed with the United Kingdom were not yet known.