EU panic: Fishermen fear ‘next nail in the coffin’ as UK threatens to walk away from talks

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EU fishermen are facing yet more bad news this week, as Brussels decides the annual fishing quotas for 2021. Next year’s quotas are set to be severely restricted, prompting fears among European trawlers.

Every year in mid-October the EU determines the catch quotas for the coming year.

Tonight the EU agriculture ministers will negotiate the Baltic Sea catch quotas for 2021.

The EU Commission has proposed significant changes, which has been met with firm resistance from EU fishermen.

The changes, based on scientific reports published at the end of August, would see huge changes to quotas on cod and herring.

The report states as cod remains a highly endangered species, the 2021 catch will have to be reduced.

This comes after the 2020 quota was also drastically reduced.

The EU is expected to sign off on plans to reduce catch in the western Baltic Sea by 11 percent, and by a whopping 70 percent in the eastern Baltic Sea.

European fisherman have heavily condemned the proposals, and argue such a move effectively stops trawlers from catching cod.

Norbert Kahlfuss from the regional association of cutter and coastal fishermen, said: “In principle, this is a ban on cod fishing.”

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But the low quota is only intended for the inevitable by-catches of cod, which is where fishermen unintentionally catch a certain species of fish.

Often by-catches are unwanted and end up being discarded and thrown back into the sea, even once they are already dead.

The EU proposals could also see herring quotas reduced dramatically.

Only half as much as herring should be caught in the western Baltic Sea in 2021 as this year and 36 percent less in the central Baltic Sea, according to the proposals.

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Mr Kahlfuss said: ”For the fishermen this is the next nail in the coffin.”

One area of the EU is permitted to increase its herring catch, but only in the Gulf of Riga.

Ralph Krehl, a fisherman in Stahlbrode, Germany, said the new quota would mean that instead of eight tonnes of herring, he would only be allowed to catch four tonnes.

He said: “It’s next to nothing.”

The changes to fishing quotas comes after Boris Johnson threatened to walk away from EU trade talks on Friday, after the two sides failed to reach an agreement by his deadline.

The two negotiating teams met in London to discuss how best to proceed today, but a No10 spokesman has said the talks will not resume unless the EU changes its approach.

The spokesman said: “This was a constructive discussion. The UK has noted the EU’s proposal to genuinely intensify talks, which is what would be expected at this stage in a negotiation.

“However, the UK continues to believe there is no basis to resume talks unless there is a fundamental change of approach from the EU.

“This means an EU approach consistent with trying to find an agreement between sovereign equals and with acceptance that movement needs to come from the EU side as well as the UK. The two teams agreed to remain in close touch.”

Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg

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