Mackerel men urge strong stand against Faroes

SCOTLAND’S mackerel fishermen and processors are urging the government and European Commission to reduce the current access arrangements for Faroese fishermen which allows them to catch mackerel in Scottish waters.
Under the two-part EU-Faroe bilateral deal negotiated in 2014, a quota exchange agreement and an access arrangement was finalised.
The access part of the deal enables vessels from Faroe to catch some of their own mackerel and blue whiting quota in EU waters rather than in Faroese waters, and in return EU vessels can catch some of their quota for these species in Faroese waters.
But an economic report on the access arrangement just published by Seafish has found that this part of the agreement is heavily skewed in favour of the Faroese.
The report reveals that the UK received no benefit as its vessels did not catch any mackerel or blue whiting in Faroese waters in 2014.
Conversely, the Faroese caught 93 per cent of their mackerel and blue whiting permitted from EU waters with an estimated catch value of £42.1 million.
The Scottish demand is also being backed by the Northern Pelagic Working Group (NPWG), organised under the auspices of EAPO (European Association of Fish Producers’ Organisations) which is also urging member states and the European Commission to reduce the current access arrangements for Faroese fishermen.
The deal is now up for its annual negotiation and the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association and Scottish Pelagic Processors Association are calling for the EC and the UK governments to adopt a strong stance to ensure a more equitable agreement is reached.
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said: ‘We are not against every part of the overall agreement, especially since it enables some Scottish whitefish boats to access quota held by the Faroese.
‘It is also desirable to work within international quota arrangements rather than have autonomous quota setting.
‘However, the part of the agreement that is causing us huge concern is the access arrangement for mackerel.
‘This has given Faroe the opportunity to catch over £40 million worth of high quality mackerel  – primarily from within Scottish waters – which is now being sold into the same markets as our own processing sector, creating marketing difficulties.’
Ian McFadden, of the Scottish Pelagic Processors Association, said: ‘The market is already challenging given the Russian/EU trade dispute, the devaluation of the Ukrainian currency and significant currency import problems with Nigeria since the oil economy crash.  These are all important markets that are now effectively closed.
‘Scottish processors are now in direct competition with the Faroese processing sector as the mackerel caught in Scottish waters has a much higher quality.
In essence, we have turned their mackerel value from bronze to gold. This access agreement is having a detrimental impact on the profitability of the Scottish processing sector which is a significant direct and indirect employer in Scotland.
‘We urge the UK governments and EC to adopt a tough stance in the forthcoming negotiations by removing the mackerel access element from the agreement, especially since the Faroese fleet previously argued for their share in the mackerel quota based on catches of mackerel within their waters.’
Ian Gatt said: ‘This new economic analysis by Seafish provides a comprehensive assessment of the cost/benefits of the mackerel access arrangement and we thank the organisation for its work in producing it.’