Days cuts must be resisted –

Days cuts must be resisted Published:  18 December, 2006

THE SHETLAND whitefish industry could be knocked off its course of recovery should proposals to cut the number of days at sea by 25 percent become a reality.

Scottish fishermen leaders are in Brussels in the run up to the end of year European fisheries council which starts tomorrow .

The are lobbying the UK’s negotiating team under the leadership of fishing minister Ben Bradshaw arguing that cutting the number of days would do neither good to the industry nor the recovering fish stocks.

A 14 per cent cut in the Total Allowable Catch for cod in the North Sea has already been agreed at the EU – Norway talks, earlier this month.

Speaking in Scalloway today, the chairman of the Shetland

Fishermen’s Association (SFA), skipper of the Alison Kay, James Anderson, said the proposal could destroy all the good work that had been done over the last five years.

“Every year they come along with a determination to cut days. There is no need for it now. We see the fish coming back, it is as good as it hasn’t been in a long time. We need to be allowed to fish; we have done enough.

“We are seeing more small cod than what I have ever seen since I went to sea. Cod is coming back. Monks and haddock and the fish we are fishing have also been good this year. Most of the boats, I think, had the best year’s fishing in 2006.

“To come along and cut it back just threaten to viability of the boats

after going through such a difficult spell. It shouldn’t happen and

hopefully it won’t.

“We should had had an increase in the cod quota but for political reasons we were not to get it. But we should have had a roll over, and we got a 14 per cent cut. That was bad. The last thing we need now is a cut in the days at sea, because that would pose a real difficulty, there is no doubt about that.”

Fisheries ministers were holding last minute meetings with industry leaders in Brussels tonight.

Scottish fisheries minister Ross Finnie said he was “extremely concerned” about the proposal to cut 25 per cent of the number of days. But, he added,there were also a number of positive indications for the Scottish fishing fleet such as increased quota for haddock and mackerel.

He said: “I am extremely concerned about the prospects of a 25 per cent cut in days at sea for Scottish whitefish vessels.

“Our industry has changed the way it is doing business for the better but cuts of this order could see a return to the difficulties of past years.

“We have a strong case to argue and we have substantial support from

industry and environmental groups. I can assure our fishermen that I will strongly resist any proposal that is not based on sound science and which does not reflect the realities of the fishing industry.”