Days move gets mixed reaction –

Days move gets mixed reaction Fishing Monthly Published:  16 August, 2004

A MOVE by the European Commission to increase the number of days fishing vessels can stay at sea each month won a mixed reception fom the fishing industry today, Monday August 16th.

Hamish Morrison, the chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said the two additional days represented a “small mercy” but they had been too long in coming.

However,George MacRae, the secretary of the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association hailed the decision as highly significant as it represented acceptance by the EU of the principle that different fisheries should be dealt with in different ways in relation to effort management.

The European Commission said today that on the basis of new data from the United Kingdom on by-catches of cod by vessels fishing outside the North Sea Cod Protection Area, they would allow an increase in the days at sea available to vessels targeting haddock and holding special permits.

To accelerate the adoption of these proposed rules, the Commission proposes to amend the Council Regulation on total allowable catches (TACs) for 2004, adopted in December 2003.

MacRae said he understood that the extra days would be available from the beginning of next month which represented eight additional days for the remainder of this year.

Morrison said the extra days were a very long time in coming and there had been no need for this because political agreement was, as he understood it, ready for the July fisheries council.This whole issue went back to the “appalling blunder” of last December’s fisheries deal when ministers were warned the bid to conserve cod would result in an undercatch of haddock.

“In the meantime a lot of unnecessary economic disruption to the fleet has taken place with no gain whatsoever for either cod or haddock conservation,” he added.

While the Commission announcement specifies an increase in days from 10 to 12, in fact the UK fleet goes from 15 to 17 per month because there is an allowance of four days for decommissioning and one day for steaming.“The SFF welcomes the EU decision to grant an additional two fishery days per month to vessels fishing for haddock with a permit. This outcome is the vindication of a closely argued campaign stretching back to last February when this ill advised measure was first introduced,” Morrison added.

But he said the federation is anxious to insist that this concession should not be construed as agreement to the principle of the permit regime as currently operated. There must be an open discussion about fisheries management arrangements for 2005 but this “ridiculous” permit scheme must be removed from the agenda.

A cod protection zone was established in the North Sea this year in which UK vessels targeting haddock may only take 35 per cent of their haddock quota. Such vessels must hold a special licence to fish the rest of the UK haddock quota outside the protection area, as they are subject to a number of rules to ensure the protection of cod. The Commmission says new data from the UK shows that cod by-catches by UK vessels outside the cod protection area are very low.

Meanwhile, MacRae said :”The additional days are good news but the main thing is that there is now clear acceptance by the EU of the principle that different fisheries should be dealt with in different ways in relation to effort management.And this decision will be central in relation to likely days at sea management for 2005”

He went on:”An important principle has been accepted and that is as a result of initiatives by the white fish association strongly supported by Orkney Fishermen’s Association.Remember it was said before by everyone including the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation that additional days were not availabled but we have proved it can be done by having a significant presence in Brussels with strong scientific evidence to support our case.”

The European Commission has also proposed measures to ensure protection for deep-sea corals around the Azores, Madeira and the Canary islands until long-term rules can be established later on this year. A proposal for long-term protection through a ban on bottom trawling was tabled last February .However, as its progress through Council and the European Parliament has been delayed by the European Elections, the Commission has proposed that measures be put place in the interim period.