McGrigor presses Lochhead on behalf of West Coast prawn fishermen –

McGrigor presses Lochhead on behalf of West Coast prawn fishermen Published:  05 December, 2012

McGrigor presses Lochhead on behalf of West Coast prawn fishermen; also expresses disappointment that annual fisheries debate wasreplaced by debate on Leveson.

Jamie McGrigor, Highlands & Islands MSP & the Scottish Conservative Fisheries Spokesman, has challenged the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs to ensure west coast prawn fishermen will not beprevented from fishing their traditional fishing grounds from the December 21 until February 1 next year. Mr McGrigor was responding to Richard Lochhead’s Parliamentary statement on the annual EUfisheries negotiations.

Jamie also made a Point of Order to Holyrood’s Presiding Officer asking how MSPs should explain to their fishermen constituents that the most important fisheries debate of the year, the annual EU fisheries negotiations debate, had been replaced by a debate on the Leveson Inquiry, referring to a “debate on fish suppers being replaced by a debate on what they are usually wrapped in”.

The west coast prawn fleet faces the closure of its fishery because east coast vessels have used up all the available kilowatt effort hours usually used by them in their west coast waters. Pointing out that west coast prawn fishermen had been warning about this potential crisis since last May, Mr McGrigor called on the Cabinet Secretary to provide specific details of the options which theScottish Government said would be provided to allow them to stay active through to the end of this effort year. He also urged the minister to recognise that Marine Scotland’s suggestion of fishermen using a flexible grid fitted to each net was not acceptable on safety grounds and because of the unsuitability of such a grid in the west coast sea areas.

Speaking afterwards the Highlands and Islands MSP said: “The Cabinet Secretary said even he could not have predicted the lack  of prawns in the north sea this year which caused east coast vessels to migrate to the west coast prawn fishing grounds but he simply ignored the fact that the west coast prawn fishermen and their representatives have been warning Ministers and Marine Scotland about the impact this was having since last spring.

“ West coast prawn fishermen, who are not to blame for this state of affairs and who continue to fish sustainably, must be given practical, usable options by Ministers that will prevent them being tied up in January, something that would be potentially devastating for the businesses of skippers and the crew that work with them, as well as the onshore processing sector which depends on their catch.”

Referring to the current EU fisheries negotiations and to plans to reform the CFP Jamie said: “Scotland’s fishermen have done more to introduce effective conservation measures than any other fishing fleet in Europe. “That’s why we welcome the increase in quota for some key North Sea stocks such as haddock, want to see a rollover in the total allowable catch (TAC) for cod next year and oppose the drastic reductions faced by some important stocks in the west coast. The EU fisheries deal must ensure a sustainable fishing industry as well as sustainable stocks. “On the proposal to reform the CFP, I voiced in Parliament fishermen’s concerns that the ‘where possible’ proviso for maximum sustainable yield (MSY) element of the reformed CFP has been dropped.

Fishing industry representatives agree that a MSY for all stocks at the same time is simply unachievable and what we need is practical new legislation that recognises the nature of Scotland’s mixed fisheries.”