Discard enforcement must be sensible says Federation – Fishupdate.com

Discard enforcement must be sensible says Federation Published:  28 March, 2007

Bertie Armstrong

THE Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) today warned that the proposed introduction by the European Commission of a management system for reducing unwanted catches and discards must be sensible and balanced.

The SFF said it wholeheartedly supports measures to reduce discards but added it is vital that any regime introduced can work in the complex environment of mixed fisheries.

Federation chief executive Bertie Armstrong said discard reduction had long been accepted as necessary by the Scottish fleet for both conservation and commercial reasons.

“In the case of the two main target fisheries, white fish and prawns, we have long been making efforts to reduce discards to a fraction of where they were before.”

But there had to be a realistic, sensible-and not too blunt-approach to a new community regime, he said.

Asked if the EC was moving towards the Norwegian example, Mr Armstrong said it had to be remembered that Norway tended much more in the direction of a single species fishery.

In a press release today he said the EC had claimed that the discards can be as high as 70-90% in some trawl fisheries. This figure certainly does not relate to Scottish fisheries where by-catch levels are much lower. The Scottish industry has also been at the forefront of developing measures to reduce discards.

“In an industry already constrained by limitations of the number of days that can be spent at sea, time spent catching and sorting fish of no commercial value is regarded by fishermen as valuable time lost,” Mr Armstrong added .

“For this reason discards in the Scottish fleet are a fraction of what they were in days before quota and time limitations.

“Mesh sizes in nets used by both our whitefish and langoustine fleets have been increased and the industry has been working closely for some time now with marine scientists in a research programme on fishing gear selectivity.

“The detailed proposals have yet to be discussed and as usual the devil will be in the detail. Unintended consequences must be avoided as there is a real danger of serious extra constraints being imposed on a fleet that is already very tightly managed by quotas and days-at-sea restrictions.

“It is essential that any measures introduced are done so sensibly and progressively. Realism will be necessary in designing practical rules and enforcement will be a key issue.”

Scottish National Party President and MEP Ian Hudghton welcomed the announcement by the European Commission that it is initiating a consultation on eliminating discards in European fisheries.

But he added that changes to the operation of the CFP are no substitute for the return of fisheries management to national control.

The SNP believes that Scotland’s fisheries should be managed by the Scottish Parliament, with co-operation taking place with neighbouring countries with similar fishing interests, he said.