Scottish prawn fishermen anxious over potential catch cuts –

Scottish prawn fishermen anxious over potential catch cuts Published:  27 July, 2004

WEST Coast of Scotland fishermen say they are refusing to accept figures implying that cod bycatch in prawn hauls may be more significant than at first thought.

Fishermen have consistently said that cod catches in the prawn fishery are minimal and are pushing for a 30% hike in the West Coast prawn quota now, with a further 20% next year.

However, Robert Stevenson, the chief executive of the West of Scotland Fish Producers’ Organisation, has said that the way scientific assessment of the cod bycatch had been presented did nothing to help their case and was also misleading.

Stevenson said that the submission of initial catch estimates to the European Commission from Scottish scientists had prompted a call from Brussels for every instance where cod and prawns were landed from the same net, however small the amounts, to be submitted.

The claim now was that there was a 9% cod/nephrop association on the West Coast, higher than the North Sea.

Stevenson added: “The facts are that 80% of the West Coast prawn catch of 8500 tonnes last year gave rise to 157 tonnes of cod which represents a 1.8% bycatch.

“And if 80% of the catch represents 1.8%, surely that has to show that most of the nephrops fishery has a very small impact on cod.”

Stevenson said that they were now pushing for clarification of the figures submitted to Brussels and at the same time, there was concern that the catching sector was being led down the path of closed areas for the west coast of Scotland, using the 9% association figure as an excuse.

“We do not want a situation where a call is made to close boxes on the West Coast where there is a claimed high cod by catch, but we are concerned that an attempt is being made to create a climate for cutbacks in the prawn fishery,” Stevenson added.