Anger continues over prawn swap issue –

Anger continues over prawn swap issue Published:  22 March, 2007

Mike Park

ANGER and concern continued today on the part of the Scottish fishing industry over a decision to give some of the UK’s North Sea prawn quota to Germany in return for sole to help English fishermen in the Southern North Sea.

Earlier this week, FISHupdate revealed that UK fisheries ministry Defra has done a deal which means Germany gets 375 tonnes of North Sea nephrops in return for 150 tonnes of North Sea sole.

The swap has been done to aid hard-pressed under 10m vessel fishermen in the Southern North Sea, particularly those operating between Lowestoft and Folkestone who have been hard hit particularly by skates and rays by-catch provisions.

However there is mounting concern that Scottish interests have been ignored in the deal.

Mike Park, the Executive Chairman of the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association said today that the principle of international swaps was well established but he went on:

“What we cannot have is a situation where we rob Peter to pay Paul but Peter is then prejudiced by the action.”

He added that Scotland had a crucial dependency on the prawn fishery but consultation over the swap appeared to have been completely overlooked.

“What we appear to have is a cross-border raid to draw down resources from us. There is no excuse for lack of consultation given that we live in an Internet age where you can get speedy responses.”

If it was the case that the Scottish prawn sector was having to prop up an under 10m sector which Scottish fishing leaders had pointed out long ago was in danger of collapse, it was totally unacceptable.

“What is happening is that the Germans are being allowed to get their feet into the prawn market. If they like it, they only have one route from there, to set up commercial companies over here to utilise our quota.”

George MacRae, the secretary of the white fish association said if producer organisations in England and Wales were responsible for supplying the prawns for Germany that was another matter, but if that was the case, why were Scottish fisheries minister Ross Finnie and the Scottish fisheries department involved in the issue?

“We must get assurances that the Scottish share of the prawn TAC is completely ring-fenced. But it looks as if prawns will have to come from Scotland to allow this swap to go ahead which sets a very dangerous precedent indeed.”

Scottish National Party fisheries spokesman Richard

Lochhead said it was an an outrage that Defra has “smashed and grabbed” Scotland’s fishing quota to swap it for quota for fishermen south of the border.

“Why on earth has Ross Finnie allowed this to happen and what is he doing to stop this theft in its tracks? This is just the latest illustration of how the UK sidelines Scotland and treats our fishing communities with contempt.”