The 36TH Annual Meeting of the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) was held in London from 13 to 17 November 2017.
NEAFC is the intergovernmental organisation responsible for fisheries management in international waters in the North-East Atlantic. Its Contracting Parties are Denmark (in respect of the Faroe Islands and Greenland), the European Union, Iceland, Norway and the Russian Federation.
At the Annual Meeting, conservation and management measures for the year 2018 were adopted for a number of fish stocks. These include blue whiting, herring, mackerel, redfish in the Irminger Sea and Rockall haddock.
NEAFC is progressing further in its work regarding improvements to the conservation and management of deep-sea species. At this Annual Meeting, NEAFC renewed its Recommendation on deep-sea fisheries within the NEAFC Regulatory Area, but in addition agreed a Recommendation to ensure fisheries for deep-sea stocks/species not subject to other conservation and management measures only to expand gradually to allow for information to develop to assess sustainability. Current measures include prohibiting fisheries directed at deep-sea sharks, rays, chimaeras and spurdog, in addition to catch limits being set for several species of grenadiers in two separate areas. Bans on fisheries targeting basking shark and porbeagle remain in effect.
The protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs), such as corals, continues to be an important issue for NEAFC. NEAFC has already closed bottom fisheries in all areas where VMEs are known to occur or are considered likely to occur according to scientific advice. During the meeting NEAFC received the latest scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea regarding the occurrence of Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems in the Regulatory Area. In response to the advice, NEAFC has not only extended the current VME closures from the end of 2017 to the end of 2022, but also expanded the coverage of its areas closed to fishing in the Rockall-Hatton Bank. Furthermore it extended the period of the closed areas from the end of 2017 to the end of 2022.
NEAFC continues to place great emphasis on action against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fisheries. A major step to enhance monitoring, control and enforcement was taken when the basis for an Electronic Reporting System (ERS) for NEAFC was formally adopted in 2016. This year’s adoption of the United Nation’s international standard for exchange of fisheries information was a further step forward in this process. Development of technical solutions for the ERS will continue in 2018 on the basis of arrangements at the meeting.
Following the 2014 performance review of NEAFC, working groups related to the Allocation Criteria and the Framework for Coastal State Negotiations were established. Acting on their outputs presented at the 2017 Annual Meeting, NEAFC adopted Guidelines for Coastal States Negotiations in the North East Atlantic and a Model Framework Arrangement.
NEAFC’s cooperation with other international organisations was highlighted at the Annual Meeting. This includes the collective arrangement with the OSPAR Commission for the protection of the marine environment of the North-East Atlantic. The Annual Meeting welcomed the continuing cooperation and coordination between the two organisations, as well as the intention to include other organisations that have international legal competence regarding other activities.
NEAFC’s good cooperation with several other organisations, including the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) was also welcomed. Continued representation of NEAFC’s approaches and achievements at international meetings taking forward global developments on fisheries and oceans governance was encouraged.
The cooperating non-Contracting Party status of the Bahamas, Canada, Liberia, New Zealand and St Kitts and Nevis was renewed for the year 2018. These States cooperate with NEAFC and, in some cases, deploy vessels for transhipment operations in the NEAFC Regulatory Area.