Pollack in western waters

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written statement – made at on 23 February 2024.

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Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs


The UK, as an independent coastal state, participates in bilateral, trilateral and multilateral fisheries negotiations. In these negotiations, the UK strives to improve the sustainable management of fisheries and support our fishing industry in line with the objectives of the Fisheries Act.

As a result of quota share uplifts agreed in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, the UK has approximately 120,000 tonnes more quota from the 2024 negotiations than it would have received as an EU Member State. We have so far secured £970 million of fishing opportunities for 2024, an increase from £900m in 2023.

In June 2023, the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) provided advice that for pollack in western waters the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for 2024 should be set at zero for the first time. Defra negotiated a UK-EU bycatch TAC of 832 tonnes to avoid ‘choking’ other healthy fisheries in the southwest, where pollack is a bycatch. This would not, however, allow vessels to target pollack.

Throughout this process, we have engaged closely with industry representatives and have understood that, even with a bycatch TAC, this would pose difficulties for fishers who have predominantly targeted pollack. My department has been working to find ways to assist and support those most affected with the long-term sustainability of the fishery in mind.

We want to see the long-term recovery of this pollack fishery and believe the measures set out below will help support the sector through this time, securing a vibrant and prosperous seafood sector that supports thriving coastal communities.

Re-opening of the Fisheries and Seafood Scheme

I am pleased to announce that the Fisheries and Seafood Scheme (FaSS), England’s domestic grant scheme, is open again as of 23 February 2024. The scheme supports a variety of measures including support for setting up new practices or processes for new income streams, and training and skills development to support business diversification, and the creation of partnerships so local stakeholders can participate in co-design and management. It will provide up to £6 million in grant funding for the fishing industry this year. Applications from all fishers are encouraged but to assist those most impacted by the zero TAC for pollack, applications from those affected fishers will be expedited, bringing the application processing time down from 8 weeks to 4. This will mean we will be able get support to those most affected more quickly.

Launch of a New Scientific Study and Long-term Sustainability of the Stock

ICES advice suggests that the issues facing pollack are highly likely to last multiple years. We are working nationally and with the EU in the Specialised Committee on Fisheries (SCF) to help improve the scientific assessment of pollack and the long-term sustainability of the stock.

For example, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) is leading a scientific study, based on collaborative research between fishers and scientists, following an approach used in the Fisheries Industry Science Partnership scheme. Fishers will be engaged in the project to collect genetic samples from around 3,000 pollack. These fishers will receive payment for their initial training, payment for catching the fish required for the study and would be able to sell the pollack they caught as part of the study. The study aims to understand more about the abundance and stock structure of pollack. Not only will this help us understand the stock better, it will also help us to improve the scientific assessment of pollack, as we are committed to doing with the EU through the SCF. Applications, along with detailed eligibility criteria, will be open as soon possible for the most affected pollack fishers to apply to the study.

Our work also involves improving our understanding of the recreational fishery, with a view to the introduction of limits where appropriate and where these are likely to be effective in reducing pressure on the stock.

We will continue to work together with industry on this and any potential future management options towards the recovery of the stock. We are also looking at the future management of this stock through our Fisheries Management Plans, specifically the Celtic Sea and Western Channel Demersal plans, to be published towards the end of 2025.