Crucial EU fish talks underway –

Crucial EU fish talks underway Published:  13 December, 2010

Lochhead seeks fair deal for Scotland while Oceana calls for EU to stay firm.

As the final negotiations for 2011 fishing opportunities commence in Brussels today,  Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead has pledged to seek the best possible deal for Scotland.

Following the EU-Norway negotiations last week, shared North Sea fishery quotas have already been agreed and Scotland has secured an expansion of the catch quota scheme . The AgriFish Council meeting this week will decide fishing quotas for other important North Sea stocks – such as prawns, monkfish and megrim – as well as the West Coast fishery.

Richard Lochhead said: “At this council my key aim is to strike the right balance between stock conservation and ensuring Scotland’s fishing industry remains commercially viable, as we continue to move towards more sustainable fishing practices.

“As ever, we will be conducting these negotiations against a very challenging background not least the bizarre machinations of the Common Fisheries Policy as well as some difficult scientific advice.

“The council also provides the opportunity to reflect on the recent breakdown in talks with the Faroes for a new international agreement on mackerel which is deeply frustrating. We are again facing a situation where this valuable stock will be overfished, due to the irresponsible actions of the Faroes and Iceland. I will now be calling on the EU to make every effort to keep the negotiations open and failing that to take strong action that makes clear this behaviour is unacceptable.

“Through last week’s agreement between the EU and Norway, some decisions on vital stocks have already been taken. We were able to minimise reductions in landings for the Scottish industry, while securing an expansion of our catch quota scheme. Unlike traditional quotas, catch quotas allow for all fish caught to be landed and fishermen can earn more from their catch without wasteful discards.

“Even while working within the discredited Common Fisheries Policy, I am committed to seeking the best deal possible for Scotland. I will be fighting hard for our fishermen this week, including pressing for a fundamental review of the Cod Recovery Plan. While these negotiations will be challenging, I believe the sacrifices made by Scottish fishermen should be recognised and rewarded.”

Meanwhile Oceana, the international marine conservation organisation, has strongly urged the Council of Ministers not to water down the European Commission’s proposal on fishing opportunities for 2011,saying because the current proposal was already insufficient to guarantee the sustainable exploitation of fisheries, Ministers must take bolder steps and go beyond the Commission’s proposed reductions.