The EU fisheries council has set fishing quotas for 2019, with an accent on sustainability of fishing stocks. Representing Belgium was Flemish environment minister Joke Schauvliege: the country’s fishing industry is concentrated along the North Sea coast in Flanders.
Belgian fishers are active in ensuring the sustainability of stocks of the fish species they catch, both through industry organisation Rederscentrale and the scientists of the government’s Institute for Agricultural, Fisheries and Food Research (ILVO).
According to researchers, Schauvliege said, Belgium has made progress in reaching a sustainable level in most of its target stocks, and is close to doing so for the rest. “I am please to report that we, thanks to the efforts of our fishing fleet, have been successful in most areas to reach – or almost reach – sustainability,” the minister said. “For more vulnerable species, we are taking extra care.”
As far as the ministers are concerned, the total allowable catch (TAC) for fish where stocks have reached sustainability are maintained at last year’s level or increased. For fish stocks where there is still progress to be made, TACs are reduced for 2019, to give the fish the opportunity to replenish their numbers.
An example of the latter case is cod, where the TAC in the North Sea and English Channel is cut by 30%, and in the Irish Sea by 50%. For skate, on the other hand, the TAC for the North Sea remains stable, while in Western waters it can go up by five to ten percent.
Belgium is awarded a quota of 170 tonnes of sole in the Irish Sea, part of which is reserved for scientific research. However an increase of 7% last year in the Bristol Channel – where Belgian boats have fishing rights, is reversed for next year, to keep the numbers of young fish at a sustainable level.
“The outcome of the December 2018 fisheries council creates the conditions to allow us to go further with our activities aimed at making the Belgian fishing industry sustainable,” said Geert De Grote, president of Rederscentrale and himself an active fisherman.