SCOTTISH fishermen have welcomed the publication of a report revealing the full extent of catches by foreign vessels in UK waters.
Published today by NAFC Marine Centre UHI in Shetland, and based on the European Commission’s most recent data, Dr Ian Napier’s report explains that more than half of the fish caught in British waters between 2012 and 2014 were taken by foreign fishing boats.
Some 58 per cent of the fish and shellfish landed from the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) were caught by other EU countries.
This equates to around 650,000 tonnes of fish and shellfish, worth more than £400 million each year. In contrast, UK fishing boats fishing elsewhere in EU waters, landed on average 90,000 tonnes of fish and shellfish, worth about £100 million.
Non-UK EU boats caught seven times more fish in UK waters than UK boats caught in the waters surrounding other EU countries.
Half of all the demersal fish and two thirds of the pelagic fish caught in our fishing waters were caught by boats from EU countries other than the UK.
More than three-quarters of the sole, hake and herring, and more than half of the megrim, plaice and saithe caught in British waters was taken by other European fishing boats.
However, exit from the EU will enable the UK to assert control over its 200-mile EEZ, which means that foreign vessels could not then fish in the zone without express consent.
Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said: ‘This detailed analysis of these landing figures is a bombshell that reveals the truly shocking extent of how our rich fishing grounds have been given away in recent decades.
‘Brexit provides a sea of opportunity to breathe new life into our coastal communities by ensuring increased catching opportunities and fit for purpose management within our own EEZ.
‘The UK and Scottish governments must take heed of the startling figures contained within this report and work together as a team to ensure that the best possible deal is reached for our hardworking fishermen.
‘It would be a monumental betrayal of our coastal communities if this opportunity was traded away in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations.
‘Brexit has the real potential to turn Scotland into a world leading sustainable seafood harvesting and exporting nation.’
Shetland Fishermen’s Association executive officer Simon Collins said: ‘The report shows just how strong a bargaining position we have. We should deny access to our rich and productive fishing grounds to any country not prepared to offer something in return, and by that I mean fairer shares of scientifically agreed quotas.
‘We urge the UK and Scottish governments to use their strength in this area to restore pride and dynamism to an industry so cynically sacrificed upon EU entry all those years ago.’
The full report is available via https://www.nafc.uhi.ac.uk/media/news/fish-landings-from-the-uk-eez