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Decommissioning with a new name

SHETLAND MSP Tavish Scott has slammed the Scottish government’s ‘four pillars’ plan to help the fishing industry as “rhetoric” and has called for “concrete action” instead.

His response comes after fishing secretary Richard Lochhead announced a £12 million support scheme for the Scottish fleet which could see up to 40 vessels decommissioned, including one from Shetland.

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On Tuesday, following a meeting of the Scottish Fisheries Council, Mr Lochhead said: “Our plan will help steer the industry through both the short term and longer term challenges and into hopefully more profitable and calmer waters.

“Currently, a combination of ill-fitting restrictions from Brussels and the economic climate has led to parts of the industry facing the perfect storm.

“Our 4 Pillar plan is a survival toolkit for the current economic climate but also much more. It contains actions that focus on changing the regime.

“Less rigid effort restrictions, increased scope for catch quotas and the return of decision making to Member States as part of the CFP reform are important priorities for Scotland.”

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The four pillars of the plan are intended to:

• improve the wider international framework for fisheries management;
• manage Scotland’s own fishing quota and effort allocations to promote sustainability and profitability;
• work with industry to maximise catch value; and
• make sure Scotland has a resilient fleet, crewed by a skilled workforce.

But Mr Scott said less “well written rhetoric” would have been useful as fishermen were in need of help now.

“Shetland fishermen face really serious financial pressures now. The first thing Mr Lochhead needs to do is to recognise the reality, now,” Mr Scott said.

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“Here are the four pillars that our fisheries minister should have announced:

• change the cod recovery plan by extending it to reduce the massive cuts it’s imposing on whitefish boats;
• accept that the conservation  credits system isn’t working, particular for Shetland boats that prosecute a mixed fishery and where monkfish are a vital component of the industry financial viability;
• accept that a ‘one size fits all’ fisheries policy from Edinburgh and Brussels just doesn’t work. The Scottish government cannot criticise the CFP as ‘one size fits all’ while it is imposing exactly the same from Edinburgh, with all its inherent disadvantages;
• ensure that, rather than a further cut in the days our fleet is allowed to fish next year, the December fisheries council negotiates an increase, in recognition of the improving fish stocks.”

The MSP added: “That would be a real plan of action for our boats, and one that would have the industry supporting the fisheries minister.

“I will be pressing for the Scottish government to accept the reality of the pressures our boats face and act in their interests. That’s what needs to happen and quickly.”

SIC vice convener Josie Simpson attended Tuesday’s meeting of the Scottish Fisheries Council and returned feeling dismayed.

“What they call this fleet resilience is more or less decommissioning with a new name. There are applications for 50 boats to be taken out of the industry…and one of thos boats is Shetland,” he told councillors on Wednesday.

“IT was the same old story, the fishing industry is just getting smaller by the year, so I think the message is very, very loud and clear that we need to take a stronger stance on this.”

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