EU agrees on unique high-grading ban

Published on December 15, 2008

As part of a fishing opportunities agreement with Norway, the EU has for the first time included a high-grading ban.

The new agreement for the North Sea and the Skagerrak/Kattegat, which also includes next year’s catch quotas for cod, haddock, saithe, whiting, plaice, shrimp, herring and sprat, will be put into operation on Jan.1.

The negotiations, the result of which will be finalised by the EU at the Council Meeting later this week, were dominated by the discards issue, primarily of cod. Earlier this fall, a much-publicised film from the Norwegian Coast Guard showed a British vessel openly dumping more than 5,000 kg of cod and other dead white fish after leaving Norwegian waters (both Norway and Denmark have national discard bans).

Norway now demanded that the Union establish an overall discard ban from 2011. The new agreement instead stipulates that the EU will “consider” such a ban in the context of the 2012 overhaul of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The member states were also granted a 30 per cent increase in the catch quotas for cod, which was possible within the frame of the recently adopted cod recovery plan.

Far from meeting the call for a total ban, the new agreement does include a string of measures to reduce discards:

  • A ban of high-grading. High-grading is the practice of discarding low-value small fish in order to fill the quota allotted with higher-value big fish.
  • A system of real-time closure areas to protect juvenile cod, saithe, haddock and whiting.
  • The EU agrees to use more selective tools when a certain part of the cod quota has been used.
  • The EU undertakes to guarantee Norway that vessels entering the Norwegian economic zone in the North Sea will have actual quotas of the species they are expected to fish.

A joint expert group will be established to continue work on developing more selective tools. Its first recommendations will be published during the first quarter of 2009.