Fishers' grouping hits at aid move –

Fishers’ grouping hits at aid move Fishing Monthly Published:  02 July, 2004

A FISHERMEN’S grouping today, Friday July 2nd, protested bitterly to Scottish fisheries minister Ross Finnie over his decision to make no further payments under the transitional aid scheme which was made available to Scottish white fish vessels last year.

The chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation Hamish Morrrison, said the federation “greatly regrets” Finnie’s stance and he had written to the Minister seeking a rethink after a more detailed analysis of actual fishing patterns during the first half of the current year.

The Federation also insists that the special circumstances of the catching sector justify intervention when “politically inspired” management measures undermine the basic profitability of vessels.

In his letter, Morrison tells Finnie it was “very disappointing” to learn he had decided against extending the 2003 Transitional Support Scheme for vessels obliged to restrict their fishing time due to the effects of the Cod Recovery Plan.

And while Finnie had taken time to explain, in detail, the reasoning behind the decision as well as outlining the policy and logistical difficulties of operating the scheme, the federation wanted further consideration to the following points of importance to the catching sector.

Provisions set out in the FIFG regulation, as amended in 2002, are intended to deal with the short term economic consequences of stock recovery plans and are, therefore, an important aspect of the CFP. Although there is absolute discretion for national administrations on whether or not these provisions are activated, fishermen are entitled to expect that their government will make the most of all avenues available to relieve current difficulties.

Morrison added:

“Indeed, since government’s own favoured policy of large-scale decommissioning has failed, so far, to bring about an equitable and sustainable redistribution of available fishing opportunities, then the case for transitional relief is enhanced.

“You mention the possibility of additional fishing time being available to vessels fishing haddock under the permit scheme. The Federation shares your hope that this initiative will succeed, albeit as a temporary expedient. Even so it has to be pointed out that such a favourable outcome would not remedy the problems of all vessels. Geography and the distribution of cod stocks mean that Shetland’s fishermen would remain at a particular disadvantage without any apparent means of recovering their losses.

“The general point you make about looking to a longer-term integration of fishing into mainstream economic and enterprise policies is interesting and worthy of a detailed dialogue between industry and government. In the meantime, and for as long as patterns of operation in the fishing industry are dictated by political decisions, then special provisions will be necessary for the catching sector in particular.

“It is to be hoped that when the actual effects of the first six months of current restrictions have been more precisely evaluated, you may reconsider the possibilities for transitional support to those vessels that have suffered, and will continue to suffer serious loss of viability over the period ahead. At all events it is to be hoped that you will keep an open mind on the prospects for transitional support should the Commission decide to inflict yet another ill-considered and oppressive series of restraints on the fleet for 2005. “