Scottish and English fishing groups present united front –

Scottish and English fishing groups present united front Published:  11 October, 2010

LEADERS of the two main UK fishing groups have struck up a close working relationship to formulate a united approach on a number of key issues likely to affect them over the next 12 months.

The groups, the  Scottish Fishermen’s Federation and the NFFO met recently in London to agree joint positions in preparation for the autumn negotiations on quoats and other matters.

They said afterwards that the need for a more intelligent approach to cod recovery was at the head of the agenda, with the mackerel crisis, the Commission’s approach to maximum sustainable yield and cosmetic TAC reductions also high on the list of issues discussed.

It was agreed that the preliminary results of the catch quota trials under way in Scotland, England and Denmark show great promise. However, the meeting also expressed great concern that it is unlikely that the necessary preconditions for the scheme to work next year will be met.

The scheme requires participating vessels to fit CCTV to record all catches and discards. Vessels are rewarded for the additional costs and inconvenience involved with additional cod quota and permitted days at sea. An additional 5% has been added to the North Sea TAC this year, in agreement with Norway, to trial the new system. Preliminary results have shown that under these arrangements discards can be reduced to only 1% – a remarkable achievement.

Their fear is that, despite constant Norwegian rhetoric about the level of discards, Norway will not be prepared to sanction the extra cod quota to make the scheme work and the scientific provision that provided the 5% additional quota this year, will be reduced to 2.5% next year. Instead of expanding a successful discard initiative it will have to be scaled back.

This would be a backward step for discard reduction and for cod recovery and the two federations have agreed to press hard for the removal of these obstacles to the widening of the scheme.

At the same time it is recognised that catch quotas are not appropriate for all vessels and all segments of the fleet. An over rapid expansion could jeopardise the viability of parts of the fleet.

The NFFO and SFF have therefore agreed that the catch quota scheme, if it is to be applied more widely, should follow a number of principles:

* Participation in the scheme should be entirely voluntary* Additional quota, over and above the agreed TAC, should be made available to participating vessels at a realistic level to encourage widespread involvement* Exemption, or relief,  from the days at sea regime for participating vessels should also be used as an incentive* Full documentation of all catches* Scientific validation of CCTV records, with safeguards about access to those records* Movement of cod catches from the discards to the landings column in the ICES stock assessment so that explicit progress can be tracked