New catch cut call is “madness” Published: 07 December, 2004
A NEW report calling for more major catch cut backs and closures to save fish stocks was today described by a leading fishermen’s spokesman as “madness.”
The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution is urging the creation of national marine parks, which would be closed to commercial trawlers.
The UK Government advisory body believes previous measures have failed and further measures are needed to protect stocks.
Basically, the report recommends that about 30% of the UK’s exclusive economic zone should be closed to commercial fishing for at least a time.
Coupled with that, the report also calls for further reductions in the size of the fishing fleet in order that its long-term viability can be assured.
Fishermen’s leaders dubbed the report as simplistic and behind the times and argued the UK fleet had never landed more than 15% of the market demand for cod. Most of the cod consumed in the UK was imported.
George MacRae,the secretary of the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association added that the Royal Commission’s recommendations were “absolute madness.”
He said that because of oil and gas discovery in the North Sea there were now 20,000km of pipeline there plus oil platforms, rigs and other exploration equipment, plus busy seagoing traffic servicing the industry.
“If it had ever been suggested that exploitation levels should be reduced by 30% or ideally eliminated, what would have happened?
“We are going through a major programme of stock regeneration right now, we have sustained over 50% decommissioning of our fleet, yet environmentalists are calling for more. Basically, they want rid of commercial fishing or,at least,see it reduced to a level possibly geared to a rowing boat and a man or a son going out and catching a couple of boxes of fish, if allowed a permit to do so.
“But I do not see any comment in this report on the effect of seal and seabird predation on fish stocks, each of which eat more than the fishermen catch.”
Hamish Morrison, the chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said that the Royal Commission’s views were behind the times and it was also likely that many of the European Commission’s own proposals to be aired this week will have been overtaken by events by the time they are published.
Mr Morrison added:
“ It is understood that the Commission will propose a number of closed areas for cod conservation in the North Sea this week. This possibility has been the subject of particularly intense debate resulting in an own initiative opinion by the North Sea Regional Advisory Council (RAC), opposing such closures. This opinion will be formally presented to Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg and senior Commission officials at a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday December 8th.”
Mr Morrison went on:
“I think the point of this awful situation makes clear that the European Commission was very wrong to go down this road of micro-management.”
Scotland’s fisheries Minster Ross Finnie has said he will oppose any fresh European Commission bid to close areas to protect cod.
He said he had told the fishing industry that the immediate Commission proposals are four to five weeks old and pre-dated the Commission’s own scientific committee’s pronouncement on the state of fish stocks.The Commission committee had said they do not believe current scientific evidence on stock health merits anything other than a development of the existing regime.
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