Quota agreement 'reasonably positive', say Scottish fishing leaders

TWO of Scotland’s largest fishing organisations have welcomed the outcome of the December Fisheries Council as ‘reasonably positive’ for their members.

Leaders of the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association (SWFPA) and the Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA) also said that they welcomed pressure from the Scottish Government on the European Commission to face up to the practical problems thrown up by the introduction of the discard ban.

The success at the December Council follows on from that of the EU-Norway negotiations, which delivered increases in total allowable catches (TACs) of both cod and haddock.

There are now further increases in monkfish (20 per cent), Rockall haddock (113 per cent) and a hard-fought rollover in the amount of ling that can be landed.

Scottish boats will also benefit from a 50 per cent increase in Greenland halibut and a rollover in the number of days boats can put to sea.

Chief executive of the SWFPA, Mike Park, said: ‘This has been a reasonably positive December Council for fishermen in Scotland.

‘At long last the Commission is beginning to recognise that the discard ban has created more problems than it has solved.

‘Up until now, officials have demonstrated little understanding of the practical difficulties and ruinous implications for the fishing industry of the ban.

‘They now need to listen to skippers and crewmen who have delivered on their commitment to sustainable fishing – they are the innovators who can find ways to secure a strong future for environmentally-responsible fisheries.

‘We hope now that the Scottish Government will convince the UK and other member states around the North Sea basin of the huge importance of setting out a path of delivery that both promotes and protects fishing businesses.’

SFA executive officer, Simon Collins, said: ‘Over and above details of quotas for next year, the Commission needs to shoulder its responsibilities on implementing the discard ban.

‘Industry has been playing its part with trials and a range of positive suggestions to create a 21st century management regime.

‘We welcome the fact that the Scottish Government is taking up these themes with the Commission and other Member States.

‘The Commission must now respond with its own positive contribution. Pushing ahead blindly with the failed management systems of the past is not an option.’

Mr Park added: ‘We would also like environmental NGOs and celebrity chefs who supported the discard ban to work with us on finding solutions rather than reverting to simplistic slogans and confrontational behaviour.

‘For instance, community law has to be adequately changed to fit and support every aspect of the discard ban otherwise we will end up with chaos. This is a process that requires focused thought, not cheap rhetoric.’