Park calls for new deal on by-catch species Published: 13 September, 2007
A FISHERMENs leader has urged EU Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg to reverse a trend which has seen systematic top slicing of total allowable catches in by-catch species such as North Sea megrim.
In a letter to the Commissioner, Mike Park, the executive chairman of the Scottish White Fish Producers Association, says North Sea megrim is found mainly in the Northern North Sea and the waters around the Shetland Islands. Catches of megrim are to be found in the mixed demersal fisheries and make up a relatively small part of a vessels catch. The UK holds over 96% of the available quota, with Scottish vessels catching over 90% of that allocation.
But the TAC for North Sea megrim has been systematically top-sliced over recent times from a level of 2700 tonnes in 2003, to 1478 tonnes in 2007, a reduction of over 46%.
The rationale for this reduction is slightly ambiguous, although it is thought to lie in its loose connection to cod, and a perceived desire by the Commission to reduce catching opportunities in general, Mr Park contends.
He adds that the recent communication from the Commission to the Council and European Parliament entitled “A policy to reduce unwanted by-catches and eliminate discards in European fisheries,” talks of results based management and a desire for specific outcomes, based on what is caught rather than landed. The Scottish industry has risen to that challenge with its pioneering of a system of real time closures to protect small cod. In addition, the Scottish Industry is presently embarking on a pilot project using observers to monitor and validate small catches of cod, an initiative under table 1, Annex IIA of Council Regulation (EC) No 41/2006 of 21st December 2006.
Now the white fish association recommends that the Commission adopt a similar pioneering approach by addressing the many false hurdles which have been created as a result of setting inappropriate levels of TAC in by-catch species such as North Sea megrim. A clear paradox exists between the Commissions proposal to ban discards and the creation of discards as a result bad management decisions.
We urge that due consideration be given to our concerns when proposing TACs for 2008, he concludes.
And the association would welcome an early meeting to discuss the issue.
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