Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead has warned that the EU must work in partnership with industry in the move towards discard-free fisheries in Europe.

EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki will chair a meeting in Brussels tomorrow (March 1), to discuss the measures that could be taken to deal with fish discards. Ahead of this meeting Mr Lochhead has written to both the Commissioner and the UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon, to set out the Scottish Government’s priorities.

Richard Lochhead said: “Scotland has worked tirelessly to put the issue of fish discards on to Europe’s radar and we have led the way in seeking workable solutions. Therefore I welcome that a process is finally underway to address the problem, even though it is deeply regrettable that Scottish knowledge will be lacking from this meeting.

“My concern now is that the EU will repeat the mistakes of the past and put in place more ill-fitting and heavy-handed legislation that won’t solve the problem of discards, but make things worse. Scotland’s experiences show that behaviour can only be changed when government and industry work in partnership, with sustainable fishing practices incentivised.

“A blanket ban on discards wouldn’t be effective, or enforceable in any practical way, while further limits on the time boats can spend at sea only encourages high-value stocks to be targeted and caught quickly, instead of more selective measures that protect vulnerable stocks.

“This is the approach championed by Scotland’s Conservation Credits Scheme – backed by conservationists – while our ‘catch quota’ trials to reward fishermen with increased quota in return for no discards have been proven effective, by both reducing fish mortality and helping fishing remain a viable livelihood.

“I urge Europe to look to Scotland’s example, where reductions in discards have been achieved at a faster rate than anywhere else in the EU, and not miss a golden opportunity to address the problems that the flawed Common Fisheries Policy is causing.”