ALL the latest news from the vital BRUSSELS talks –

ALL the latest news from the vital BRUSSELS talks Fishing Monthly Published:  17 December, 2003

FISHERIES Minister Ben Bradshaw was today told to stop siding with the European Commission over allegations that UK fisheries enforcement is not working.

Speaking as EU fish talks got under way in Brussels, George MacRae, the secretary of the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association said that he was incensed that Bradshaw appeared to be showing sympathy with Commission opposition to the bid to create areas where haddock and other species can be caught without threatening cod stock, on the grounds that UK enforcement is deficient.

Mr MacRae added: “Mr Bradshaw’s credibility is on the line, particularly as he also appears to be supporting a cut for monkfish on the West Coast although he has already achieved an increase for monkfish in the English Channel.

“Enforcement has nothing to do with the integrity of stock or days at sea and is a matter for each member state.

“At the moment, all we are seeing is the continuation of a sad, pathetic approach of UK fisheries ministers in dealing with UK fishing issues.”

The fish talks in Brussels opened on the 17th of December and are due to be concluded by the 19th December.

Mr MacRae said for Bradshaw to implicitly back the commission criticism of UK enforcement, on the first day of the talks, meant he is admitting criticism of himself and his own department.

But there was no doubt the overquota issue is being used by the Commission at best to muddy the waters, he added.

“The Commission have got no logical reason or scientific argument against the industry’s proposals. All they can do is latch onto this issue.”

A spokeswoman for the minister said that Mr Bradshaw’s remarks had been taken out of context.

And the decoupling of cod from other stocks remained a key objective for the UK at the talks.

“Mr Bradshaw is keen to ensure there is a long term fishing industry but we want to work with the industry to achieve that.”

Earlier, Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chief executive Hamish Morrison said he believed the federation’s bid for spatial management was basically dead because of the perceived UK enforcement difficulty.

Meanwhile he said that no agreement on next year’s North Sea quotas would be possible until EC-Norway talks, due to resume on Thursday, had been concluded.

Meanwhile the Commission had appeared to drop all reference to kilowatt days from conservation measures due to come in during 2005.

Longer term Commission planning was also conceding that it should be possible to adjust days at sea for skippers with 120mm mesh and above. “If that principle is in the long-term plan we should be able to get this into the short term plan as well,” Mr Morrison added

His basic objectives at the talks are to win increased quotas particularly for haddock and prawns and also increases in days at sea allocations.