Despite being lower than anticipated, the reduction in the Barents Sea cod and haddock quotas for 2019 is expected to put further pressure on already high fish prices, merchants have warned.
The total quota for northeast arctic cod for 2019 has been set at 725,000 tonnes, down 6% from 775,000 tonnes in 2018.
The haddock quota has also been reduced from 202,305 tonnes to 172,000 tonnes, a reduction of 15%.
The levels are significantly below those recommended earlier on in the year by scientists at the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) who put forward a 13% reduction in the total allowable catch for cod and 25% for haddock.
Bobby Joyce, national sales manager at Hull-based fish merchants Smales, welcomes the fact that the fishing nations have agreed on a quota that acknowledges the ICES recommendation for a reduction, saying that it will help maintain good cod and haddock stocks whilst still giving vessels sufficient fish to catch to keep producing the quality needed to satisfy the UK market.
However, he does expect prices to rise, but explains it’s not just a result of there being less fish to harvest. “It is worth noting that the new quota level for cod is 25% lower than the 2013 quota and haddock is 29% lower than 2013," he says. "This reduction in the total allowable catch has strengthened import prices in that time, but this year the UK market for Frozen At Sea fillet production has been competing against record high prices for headless and gutted production, which are sold for further processing, increased retail demand and a larger global demand for cod and haddock as a protein source.
"When you add to this the impact on importers of weaker currency rates due to uncertainty over Brexit, increases in fuel costs and a rise in staff costs, the end result has been consistently higher prices for imported cod and haddock this year. The reduction in quota will no doubt increase pressure on prices as there is less supply available and, whilst changes in any of the other factors could help balance that out, there is still no certainty if or when those changes could come.”