SCOTTISH fishing minister Richard Lochhead has welcomed the strong stance taken by the European Union on an international agreement to manage the north east Atlantic stock of mackerel.
The gesture of European unity comes after Iceland and Faroe earlier this year unilaterally increased their mackerel quota to 130,000 and 85,000 tonnes respectively.
On Monday the EU was given a mandate by member states to try and reach a satisfactory agreement with the two island states on mackerel. Europe also signalled that it will not be a soft touch during the talks and will adopt a tough negotiating stance.
For the first time Mr Lochhead was able to address the European Council on behalf of the UK, insisting on a strong message in support of what is Scotland’s most valuable fishery.
Mr Lochhead said: “The council was unanimous in its condemnation of the actions taken by Iceland and the Faroes and it is quite clear that the reputations of both countries are at severe risk.
“We all recognise that it is in our interests to resolve the situation as soon as possible and reach an agreement, otherwise the rich mackerel stock will be endangered.
“However, Scotland was at the top table today for the first time to make the case that a deal must not be signed at any price and anti-conservation behaviour must not be rewarded.”
Shetland MSP Tavish Scott added: “I took the Secretary of State for Scotland to meet the Shetland Fishermen’s Association to discuss the current problems facing the industry.
“Faroese and Icelandic fishermen are putting the future of the mackerel fishery at risk through their irresponsible actions. The European Commission has got to stand tall and take every possible action to end this crisis.
“It’s right that the Scottish fisheries minister speaks for the UK in this instance. This did not and would not have happened with a Labour government.”
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