NFFO alarm at "draconian" plans for deep water fish –

NFFO alarm at “draconian” plans for deep water fish Published:  31 July, 2012

PAUL Trebilcock, chairman of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, has voiced his alarm at the European Commission’s ‘draconian’ proposals for deep water species.

He warns that, if accepted, they will lead to a displacement of a fleet of large capacity vessels into areas in Western Waters such as the Celtic Sea where an ongoing recovery of demersal stocks would be jeopardised.

He said: “The steps taken to rebalance fishing activity with available resources in the Celtic Sea have included significant fleet reductions through vessel decommissioning schemes in France, Ireland and the UK.

“We are starting to see the rewards in terms of higher TACs and more stability in the stocks. Effort control, with all its unpredictable and often perverse consequences, was successfully resisted in the Celtic Sea. But other measures such as the Trevose Closure and perhaps more significantly substantial fleet reductions have allowed stocks to rebuild. All this would be jeopardised if a large fleet is forced out of the deep sea fisheries by poorly thought- through blanket measures.”

The NFFO says that the Celtic Sea is one of the areas that would bear the brunt of this displacement. “It wouldn’t be the first time that we had seen damaging unintended consequences as a result of crude blanket measures. The capacity reductions in the demersal fleet would be reversed and all the good work undone.”

Mr Trebilock contended: “The main problem seems to be in the blanket nature of the deep sea proposals. It is undeniable that slow growing deep water species and ecosystems need special protection.

“But instead of differentiating between those stocks and areas that can safely sustain continuing fishing activity, and those which need special protection, at 11th hour the Commission has abandoned an approach that would separate safe from harmful fishing, in favour of what amounts to a blanket ban on bottom trawling and even static netting

“The issue of displacement does not even seem to have appeared on the Commission’s radar and the suspicion has to be that the environment Commissioner has won the argument in the College of Commissioners, sidelining this and other critical issues in favour of a media focused approach. We have been here before. In 2009 the College of Commissioner’s concerns about how a scientifically justified TAC increase for North Sea cod would be seen by the media, led to a low TAC and the inevitable and predicted 38,000 tonnes of cod discards

“The danger is very real of a repeat of this kind of this kind of unintended consequence, driven by well meaning but media focussed and ultimately superficial thinking.”

The NFFO says it  will raise this issue at the next meeting of the North West Waters RAC and directly with the Commission.”It would be a tragedy if all the hard work in getting the Celtic Sea stocks on track was thrown away,” he argues.