Sunday, 6 June 2021

EU and UK reach agreement in principle on fishing opportunities for the remainder of 2021 - with figures.


The EU and the United Kingdom concluded today the negotiations on an agreement in principle setting out catch limits for jointly managed fish stocks for 2021. This was finalised in a phone call this afternoon between Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, and UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Rt Hon George Eustice MP.

Today's agreement closes the first ever annual consultations on fishing opportunities between the EU and the UK under the terms of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA). The successful conclusion of the negotiations, which started in January, creates a strong basis for continued EU-UK cooperation in the area of fisheries.

Today's agreement in principle on the management of key shared stocks secures the fishing rights of both the EU and the UK fleets in both the EU and the UK waters until the end of 2021, as foreseen under the TCA. It establishes the total allowable catches (TAC) for 75 shared fish stocks for 2021, as well as for some deep-sea stocks for 2021 and 2022. It also provides clarity on access limits for non-quota species. The signing of the agreement, expected in the coming days, will also enable both parties to engage in quota exchanges.

Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “Today we reached a deal with the UK on fishing opportunities under the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement. This agreement provides predictability and continuity for our fleets with definitive TACs for the remainder of the year. This is good for fishermen and women, our coastal communities and our ports, as well as for the sustainable use of our marine resources. This also proves that two partners on both sides of the Channel can find agreements and move forward if they work together.”

The agreement is based on the best available scientific advice on the state of fish stocks, as provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. It takes into account important sustainability and management principles, such as maximum sustainable yield and the precautionary approach, which are central to both the EU's Common Fisheries Policy and to the fisheries provisions of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

Next, the Commission will shortly propose to the Council to incorporate today's agreement into EU legislation.

The NFFO gave a summary of the negotiations:

The marathon 5-month negotiation between the UK and the EU for a fisheries agreement for 2021 has concluded with a settlement. Some details on the written record are still being finalised but the Secretary of State for the UK and the Fisheries Commissioner for the EU have both announced agreement in principle.

The NFFO will reserve comment on the package as a whole until after the agreed record has been published. In the meantime, the information that has been made available is reproduced below.

It is worthy of note that the following factors have been significant both in the content of the agreement and how the negotiations were conducted:

The terms of the UK/EU trade and cooperation agreement

The UK’s insistence on its right of regulatory autonomy as an independent coastal state

The EU’s efforts to limit divergence from the CFP

The constraints applied by having to negotiate remotely because of Covid related restrictions


One of the central purposes of the agreement, setting TACs for 2021, had already been taken out of the equation after the UK, at the beginning of May, autonomously set provisional quotas for the UK fleets; these will now be formally adopted into the agreement without significant change.


The main points of disagreement between the two parties (now resolved) eventually boiled down to:

Area flexibility

The following changes to Area flexibility apply North of 58.30’, between Area 6a (West of Scotland) and Area 4 (North Sea). Otherwise, existing flexibilities continue to apply.

Both parties have committed to engage urgently on interim quota exchanges and to a clear timeframe ahead of the establishment of the establishment of the Specialised Committee. The Specialised Committees (yet to be established) will formulate arrangements for a more permanent exchange mechanism.

Non-quota species

Both parties have agreed that notwithstanding the terms of the TCA, and reflecting the late stage in the year, tonnage limits on catches of non-quota species in each respective EEZ will not be enforced for 2021. Instead, catches on non-quota species will be monitored and work on a long-term management plan will be initiated within the context of the Specialised Committee

Bass management measures

Arrangements for bass have been amended:

  • Trawl/seine catch limits have been changed from 520kgs per two-month period to 380kgs per month, within a 5% per trip limit
  • The ban on bycatch of bass by shore nets has been removed, subject to close monitoring and limitation to those involved in this fishery prior to 2017
  • There is no change to the recreational bag limit for bass
  • Joint work on bass will continue in the specialised committee

Celtic Sea technical measures

The UK will apply new technical measures in the Celtic Sea which will apply to all vessels operating in that zone. These will apply from 3rd September 2021. Details to follow.

Industrial Species

Notwithstanding the UK’s principled opposition to industrial fishing, the following TACs were agreed:

  • Sandeel 92,500 tonnes
  • Norway Pout 128,300 tonnes

Skates and Rays

Better ways of managing the various skates and rays stocks will be referred to the specialised committee

Mixed Fishery Advice

It is expected that the agreed record will contain wording on a more rational approach to managing mixed fisheries in the future.

Written Record

All of the above is based on oral information and may be subject to adjustment when the UK/EU written record is made available.