EU plan would spell disaster, says Federation –

EU plan would spell disaster, says Federation Published:  15 December, 2006

Bertie Armstrong

THE grim consequences of failure next week to defeat hard-line European Commission plans to cut fishing effort as part of cod recovery strategy, were spelled out today in Aberdeen.

Bertie Armstrong, the Chief Executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said that at its most extreme, the Commission bid to trim back catching effort by 25% could leave the white fish fleet with the historically low base figure of only 77 days fishing a year, with a similar 25% cut for the prawn fleet.

This would represent the lowest base number of days the fleet has ever faced and was the worst threat to face white fish catchers.

At present most white fish vessels are on 163 days, partly because of an allowance made for decommissioning, but Mr Armstrong underlined there was no guarantee of derogations being permanent.

A cut to 77 days would be a worst case scenario, but it was still a real threat, he said at a press conference at federation headquarters.

He added: “Our continuous cry is this would make no sense for a well managed compliant industry fishing sustainable stocks which are in robust physical health.

“Cod is showing the first signs of recovery and there is a review of the cod recovery plan next year, so to apply this kind of strategy makes no sense at all.

“This is not about a sustainable fishery, this is about some sort of odd distortion.”

But Mr Armstrong added that the reality of the political process was that no member state will agree to the “crucifixion” of the mixed fisheries, therefore there had to be progress in a more sensible way.

However, what fishermen were missing was sensible debate and instead, they were faced with a set of extreme proposals.

Meanwhile, Mr Armstrong challenged conservation groupings bidding for a total shut down of cod catching to take a more pragmatic approach.

“We would charge the environmental NGOs to engage more sensibly in an argument about the maintenance of sustainable mixed fisheries and the recovery of cod and not pursue the saw-your-leg-off method of achieving the recovery of cod.

“If you shut everything down, you lose everything.”

The white fish fleet could not survive on 77 days, but every European fishing state had cod as a by-catch and there was unanimity across the Community Europe that the cod recovery plan is not working.

“A feature of the plan is a 25% cut before it is reviewed, but let us have a roll-over of measures while we look at all the aspects of what is affecting cod.

“In terms of fleet preservation, the Commission stance is a threat set badly against a background that most target species are in robust good health.

“Let us have adjustments to quotas, TACs and regulations in accordance with the science and we note the discord on West of Scotland herring, prawns and Rockall haddock to name but three. We recognise cod recovery is important but in the context of the Scottish mixed fishery let us not crucify the fishery on the back of the critical path of a by-catch.

“That is not to disregard the health of the by-catch, it is to demand we proceed on a more logical progression towards the goal.”

As Mr Armstrong outlined, the federation is concerned not only with the cod situation but also at what appears to be a selective approach to scientific evidence on stock health being shown by the Commission. This relates, for example, to West of Scotland herring, prawns and Rockall haddock, all in good health according to the federation, but not being treated accordingly by the Commission.