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MEP warns of new threat to fishing

NEW access rules and individual transferable quotas could leave Spanish fishermen in control of the North Sea catch, Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson has warned.

The European Commission will today (Wednesday) debate 139 proposed amendments to the green paper on reform of the Common Fisheries Policy during a special plenary session in Brussels.

Mr Stevenson, senior vice president of the European Parliament’s fisheries committee, said the proposals could transfer traditional Scottish fishing rights to wealthy foreign companies.

He is particularly concerned about one amendment specifically, which states that “access to fish stocks should no longer be based solely on the criterion of historical catches.”

“I believe that this is a potentially explosive alteration to the current rules which allocates fishing rights based on historical track records, providing evidence that generations of Scottish fishermen have fished in a particular area,” the MEP said.

“If this rule is changed, Spanish fishermen could argue that they have equal access rights to our traditional fishing grounds in the North Sea and west of Scotland.”

A similar risk is posed by the suggestion that individual transferable quotas (ITQs) are introduced, he said.

“If a system of ITQs is introduced, we can expect the same situation to occur that we witnessed in Iceland where a handful of wealthy fishing companies quickly seized control of all of the available whitefish quotas, forcing many small fishing companies out of business.

“Once again I fear that the combination of new access rules, together with ITQs, will simply enable wealthy Spanish fishing concerns to buy up most of our Scottish whitefish quotas, leaving the Spanish fleet in control of the North Sea.”

He said the impact would be disastrous for fishermen and potentially for Scottish ports of crews decided to land their catches on the continent rather than locally.

“While I am all for reforming the CFP, which has been a catastrophe for our fishing sector since its inception, I am determined to ensure that we don’t open the door to a bargain basement sale of Scotland’s fishing heritage.

“I will be putting down a series of amendments which seek to protect our industry and I will be looking to get the majority of MEPs to support me in the votes.”

Scottish Parliament election, 6 May 2021