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The EU and the UK set fishing opportunities for sandeel based on independent scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of t

EU requests consultations under Trade and Cooperation Agreement over UK's permanent closure of the sandeel fishery

EUROPEAN UNION
Wednesday, April 17, 2024, 07:00 (GMT + 9)

Today, the European Union requested consultations with the United Kingdom under the dispute settlement mechanism of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) regarding the United Kingdom's decision to prohibit the fishing of sandeel, with the aim of reaching a mutually agreeable solution.

Effective since 26 March 2024, the closure of the sandeel fishery covers English waters within the North Sea and all Scottish waters. This measure significantly restricts access for EU vessels to this fishery. The EU questions the compatibility of the full and permanent closure of the fishery with the principles and obligations under the TCA.

Lesser sandeel. Sandeels are nocturnal and typically spend all day covered in the sand. Photo: marine.gov.scot

Under the TCA, the EU and UK have agreed to apply evidence-based, proportionate and non-discriminatory measures for the conservation of marine living resources. The EU remains committed to cooperate with the United Kingdom to achieve these aims.

Cooperation between the EU and the UK under the TCA has evolved positively, including under the Specialised Committee on Fisheries, and the EU remains open to reaching a mutually agreeable solution with the UK that settles this matter.

The EU acts to protect and restore marine ecosystems for sustainable and resilient fisheries under the common fisheries policy, the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and the Marine Action Plan.

Location of the sandeel areas (1-7r) in the North Sea (ICES)

Next steps

The request for consultations formally initiates proceedings under the TCA dispute settlement mechanism with a view to finding a mutually agreeable solution to the dispute.  If consultations do not reach a satisfactory solution within 30 days, or more if agreed by both Parties, the EU may request the establishment of an arbitration tribunal to adjudicate on the compatibility of the UK's measures with the TCA.

Background

The European Commission closely monitors the implementation of commitments by EU partners, including under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the UK, and acts when necessary to ensure that these commitments are respected.

The Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and the UK applies since 1 January 2021. Under the ‘Fisheries Heading' of the TCA, the EU and the UK committed to cooperate in ensuring that fishing activities for shared stocks in their waters are environmentally sustainable and contribute to achieving economic and social benefits with all adopted fisheries management measures to be proportionate, non-discriminatory, and based on the best available scientific advice.

Detail of the UK (area 4) location of the sandeel

Pursuant to the TCA, the EU and the UK are committed to holding consultations annually to agree the TACs for shared stocks listed in Annex 35 of the TCA. Sandeel is included in that Annex as it is fished in EU waters as well as UK waters.

The EU and the UK set fishing opportunities for sandeel based on independent scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). This aims to achieve maximum sustainable yield (MSY), which allows for harvesting fish stocks at precautionary levels that allows them to reproduce at their maximum capacity while maintaining healthy population levels. For species such as sandeel, ICES takes into direct account the consumption of sandeel by other predators such as seabirds and marine mammals directly in its advice, as quantitatively based predation is routinely included in the assessments.

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