Carmichael calls for cod recovery plan review Published: 08 December, 2005
ORKNEY and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, yesterday urged UK Fisheries Minister, Ben Bradshaw to:
Give regional advisory councils more power.
Resist calls to cut the North Sea haddock quota.
And ensure local fishermen are allowed sufficient numbers of days at sea.
Speaking in the Fisheries Debate in the House of Commons yesterday Mr Carmichael said:
When we review the cod recovery programme, there must be a central role for the regional advisory councils, especially the North Sea regional advisory council. The Minister must be aware that when the RACs were set up, they were greeted with a degree of scepticismI think that he used the word “cynicism” earlier, but I hope that “scepticism” is nearer the mark. It is fair to say that the jury is still out on RACs in fishing communities and the fishing industry. However, there is a need to nurture the RACs for the benefit of those of us who hope for a regional or decentralised structure of fisheries management.
I was most concerned to hear today from the lobby from the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation and the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations that the November meeting of the North Sea regional advisory council was not given the figures on which the Council will make its judgment in December. There was not even an oral report to the Council from the Commission. If RACs such as that for the North sea are ever to do the job that the Minister and I would like them to do, they will need rather better treatment than that. I suggest that the first step towards giving them better treatment and improving their standing and stature would be to task them with the review of the cod recovery programme in the North Sea.”
On the haddock quota Mr Carmichael urged the Fisheries Minister to get the best possible deal for local fishermen. He said:
May I strengthen the resolve of the Minister on the haddock quota? It is proposed that there should be a 13 per cent cut, which will cause severe hardship. I accept that some progress has already been made, but a 13 per cent. cutan improved position though it may bewill cause exceptional difficulty. There are the difficulties of science, and the haddock supply highlights that better than almost anything else. Last year, on the basis of the data available to ICES, the spawning stock biomass for haddock was calculated at about 400,000 tonnes. At the EU-Norway talks earlier in the year, that same data was remodelled to give a spawning stock biomass of 280,000 tonnes. That shows the exceptional difficulties that one experiences when assessing the credibility of the science that is available on fisheries stocks. When the remodelled figures were produced, one could hear in Shetland the glee from Norway. There was no doubt that Norway’s hand would be significantly strengthened in the EU-Norway negotiations.
The proposal to which we have not given sufficient attention is that of days at sea. As I understand it, the proposal of the Commission, in the round, is a reduction from 108 days to 104. That in itself will be highly problematic for the white fish fleet in my constituency. The situation is even worse than it might at first have appeared. I am told that in the past year, fishermen in my constituency on white fish boats were able to take advantage of an extra 12 days that was made available to them. That was one day a month, as a result of the elective measures on administrative penalties. We still have the administrative penalties as part of the regime, but there is no question about the days that go with them.
When the Minister replies, will he tell me that he will give some priority to ensuring that the carrot-and-stick approach is still on offer and that he will not return home from Brussels without the extra 12 days? If he fails to do so, the white fish industry in my constituency will be left 16 days a year down from an already exceptionally low base. That threatens the viability of the more marginal boats in my constituency.
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