Scots pelagic fishermen to underline new concerns over mackerel to Scottish fisheries minister –

Scots pelagic fishermen to underline new concerns over mackerel to Scottish fisheries minister Published:  24 November, 2011

Scottish mackerel fishermen will tell Scots fisheries minister Richard Lochhead at a meeting in Aberdeen tomorrow (25 November) that they are deeply concerned that the European Union is ready to give up a huge share of the Scottish mackerel quota so as to strike a deal with Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

A new round of mackerel negotiations is due to begin in the Republic of Ireland on 6 December and there are now worrying signs emanating from the Commission that the EU simply wants to put this dispute to bed, whatever the cost.

Norway is taking a much tougher line and is simply not prepared to give away their fishing entitlement on the back of reckless behaviour by Iceland and the Faroes.

Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association (SPFA), said: “Iceland and the Faroes have massively increased their mackerel catches in recent years in a bid to hold the EU and Norway at ransom over mackerel shares.  Iceland has only recently started fishing on the mackerel stock, with catches in 2005 amounting to only 363 tonnes and has no history in participating in the fishery.  In the last few years Iceland has increased its mackerel quota to 150,000 tonnes, driving a horse and cart through an international fishery agreement that had been in place for decades.”

Scottish fishermen will tell Mr Lochhead that they are wholly aligned to the Norwegian position and that the principle of “crime pays” should not prevail. They will also question what has happened to the EU sanction proposal that European fishermen were promised first sight of in October.

Mr Gatt said: “The Scottish pelagic industry needs an agreement on mackerel, but a deal should be fair and equitable based on fishing practices undertaken over many years.  Setting quota shares on how much fish you can catch when the mackerel stock is in your waters, as undertaken by Iceland and Faroe Islands, is simply not an option.  If the European and Norwegian fleet used that unsustainable approach there would be no mackerel left to swim in Icelandic and Faroese waters.  Iceland and the Faroes must realise that they are putting the sustainability of a previously well-managed stock in grave danger.

“We will call on Mr Lochhead to work closely with the Irish fisheries Minister, Simon Coveney, to ensure that the EU through its negotiating position does not jeopardise the viability of the UK and Irish mackerel fleets.”

The SPFA will also tell Mr Lochhead that the North Sea herring stock has doubled over the last two years, which now offers a real opportunity to harvest significantly more fish from the stock, and the Association will ask the minister to add his support for a scientifically justified quota increase.

Meanwhile, a significant blue whiting fishery could bolster pelagic landings into Scottish processing factories due to a large uplift in the quota.

Mr Gatt said: “We will underline to the minister that we are concerned that blue whiting tonnage could be given to Norway by the EU as part of the bi-lateral fishing agreement.  Scotland doesn’t benefit from the Arctic cod stocks returned to the EU as part of the blue whiting swap.  Factories in Scotland have invested heavily in state of the art equipment so that blue whiting, traditionally a fishmeal fishery, can now be processed for human consumption.   This fishery is vital in keeping jobs open for factory workers between the winter mackerel fisheries and the summer herring fisheries.  We will inform Mr Lochhead that this fish stock is fully utilised by the Scottish fleet and retains jobs in Scotland and ask for his support to ensure that the Scottish quota is retained within Scotland.”