New catch quota scheme plans progressed –

New catch quota scheme plans progressed Published:  04 January, 2011

Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead is confident that in 2011 the Scottish fishing industry can deliver long overdue changes in fisheries management while ensuring greater returns for an industry that lands the best seafood in the world.

Following the annual EU fisheries negotiations and the 2011 EU-Norway agreement, the Scottish Government was able to make conservation a priority while securing increased fishing opportunities for some stocks, and minimise reductions where science supported such action.

At the same time, Scotland is expanding the ‘catch quota’ scheme where, unlike with traditional quotas, vessels are permitted to increase landings provided there is no discarding. Looking to the year ahead, Richard Lochhead said: “2011 will be a pivotal year for Scotland’s fisheries with renewed efforts to promote Scottish seafood and long awaited opportunities to address some of the fundamental flaws in EU fisheries management that continues to undermine the industry’s potential. “The coming year must also mark a revolution in Europe’s approach to the scandal of discards, given that Brussels-imposed policies often encourage rather than prevent this massive waste of a precious food and economic resource. “Radical surgery to European fishing policy is more urgent than ever as we continue to pursue dividends for a Scottish fleet that is bending over backwards to adopt new conservation practices. Thankfully we were able to mitigate much of the EU’s proposed cuts for next year, while adhering to the scientific advice. Indeed, with higher value fisheries protected, fishing could actually contribute more to the Scottish economy this year than in 2010. “For the West Coast fishery it is a mixed picture, with an increase in high value megrim quota and a smaller than expected cut in monkfish to help offset reductions in West Coast cod and whiting. Meanwhile, prawn landings from both the West Coast and North Sea can be maintained at 2010 levels. “We have also been able to mitigate a cut in North Sea cod by securing an expansion to our catch quota trials, whereby fishermen land all the fish they catch without the wasteful discards that the EU’s flawed Common Fisheries Policy forces on our fleet. “We have already received 58 applications to participate in the 2011 catch quota scheme – accounting for around half of the whitefish fleet. However, it’s a travesty that Scotland is being prevented from including all interested vessels in a scheme that is all about reducing discards. “This year we plan to invite a few vessels to take part in an expanded multi-species trial that goes beyond cod, applying this innovative approach to haddock and whiting also. We are on a steep learning curve but we can’t go on as business as usual if we are to mitigate the impact of the broken Common Fisheries Policy. “Of course, catch quotas alone will not provide the solution to all difficulties; however it does help match our environmental responsibilities with increased financial return for fish caught. I am committed to doing all I can to support our industry in 2011. Most of all, we need to ensure fishermen receive more reward from the fish they do land, given that Scotland has some of the best seafood in the world.” The agreed expansion of Scotland’s catch quota scheme for 2011 will more than double the 17 vessels currently involved in the trial to land, rather than be forced to discard, an extra amount equal to 12 per cent of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for cod. The Scottish Government has now written to the European Commission, setting out the scheme selection criteria and list of applicants and seeking their agreement to proceed. In 2009, Scottish vessels were forced by the Common Fisheries Policy to discard almost 28,000 tonnes of fish, around a quarter of the whitefish catch, valued at 33 million pounds. The annual EU-Norway bilateral put in place agreements for shared 2011 North Sea stocks, with a 22 per cent increase in herring; 20 per cent increase in whiting; 20 per cent reduction in cod; 13 per cent reduction in Saithe; and 2 per cent reduction in haddock. The European Council negotiations resulted in an increase in megrim quota (up 5 per cent in North Sea and 15 per cent West Coast); nephrops landings being maintained at 2010 levels (actual quota down 5 per cent for North Sea and 15 per cent West Coast); small reductions for monkfish (down 15 per cent for North Sea and 2 per cent West Coast); and 25 per cent reductions for West Coast haddock, cod and whiting.