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Fishermen face more cuts

RENEWED calls for reform of fisheries management have followed the outcome of “tough and exhausting” talks to decide next year’s quotas.

Scottish fishermen face further cuts to their already limited opportunity, though they praised the UK and Scottish government negotiating teams for minimising the scale of the reductions.

The talks ended at 5am on Wednesday morning and fishermen complained the timescale was so tight that negotiating teams had to “revert to almost street fighting tactics to secure the best outcome on the limited number of fishing opportunities that were open to change”.

Shetland Fishermen’s Association chief executive Hansen Black said the white fish fleet would be hit hardest by cuts in haddock and cod, though there was good news on other fronts with increases in the megrim and whiting quotas.

The council rubber stamped cuts agreed at last week’s EU/Norway talks, including:

•a 5 per cent cut in North Sea haddock;
•a 20 per cent cut in North Sea cod;
•a 5 per cent cut in North Sea prawns ( a slight improvement on the original 8 per cent proposed);
•a 15 per cent increase in North Sea whiting;
•a 21 per cent increase in North Sea herring.

Other agreement made included:

* a proposed 15 per cent reduction in monkfish quota on the west coast was reduced to 2 per cent;

* a flat prospect for megrim turned into a 10 per cent increase in the west coast and 5 per cent in the North Sea;

* 50 per cent proposed reductions for West Coast cod and whiting were reduced to 25 per cent each;

* no change on the original proposed reduction for West coast haddock, which remained at minus 25 per cent.

However west coast prawns were cut by 15 per cent, which will have a major impact on that fleet.

Fishermen will also be able to catch extra cod in the North Sea equal to 12 per cent of the reduced TAC (total allowable catch) if they participate in the ‘catch quota’ scheme, where boats land all the cod they catch, but stop fishing once their allocation of that species has been reached.

It is estimated that between 35 and 40 Scottish whitefish boats will be eligible to participate in the scheme next year, which while up from 2010, still leaves around 75 whitefish vessels and the whole prawn fleet of over 200 vessels outside the scheme.

Scottish fisheries secretary Richard Lochhead said: “These tough and exhausting talks have delivered positives for Scotland in some areas and disappointments in others.

“The future remains challenging for many Scottish fishermen, nevertheless I believe that we have done everything we can to secure a fair deal for Scotland, and to show the Commission that we are pushing for significant change in fisheries management.”

Mr Lochhead said he was frustrated the council had ignored their proposal for a zero Total Allowable Catch for West Coast cod and whiting, which would have allowed a limited by catch and helped stocks to recover.

“Instead, impossibly low quotas will effectively lead to discards, as fishermen are forced to throw dead fish back in to the sea,” he said.

Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chief executive Bertie Armstrong said Mr Lochhead and his team should be congratulated for their successes, but that the outcome of the talks resulted in “a sombre picture” for the Scottish fleet, especially on the west coast.

Calling for change to fisheries management, he said: “A lot of our difficulties stem from the regulations and management measures failing to fit the conditions in which the Scottish fleets work.

“There will be some very significant revisions in 2011 – the cod management plan and new arrangements proposed under the review of the Common Fisheries Policy.

“It is essential that these opportunities are seized by the industry and government working together to ensure the introduction of a more effective management regime that enables increased input from the fishing industry and greater regional control.

“Such change would help secure both the future of our fish stocks and our valuable fishing industry.”

Mr Lochhead agreed, saying: “No one is satisfied with a system that micro-manages every fishery decision from the Black Sea to the North Sea, from Burgas to Banff, with 27 member states fighting it out. It is a torturous process and with a broken and ineffective Common Fisheries Policy, the need for huge changes in EU fisheries management is abundantly clear.”

Bird charity RSPB agreed there was a need for change, calling for “a Common Fisheries Policy fit for the 21st century, which rewards fishermen who demonstrate they are fishing sustainably, and makes decisions based on sound science”.

Scots Tory MEP Struan Stevenson, senior vice-president of the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee, called for “root and branch reform” of the Common Fisheries Policy.
Mr Stevenson said: “Our fishermen long ago stopped believing in Santa Claus, but the range of cuts imposed by Brussels again this year will make it another bleak Christmas for our beleaguered fishing communities.
“Scottish fishermen are surrounded. On one side they have Iceland and the Faroes taking gigantic and unjustifiable quotas from the shared mackerel stock. On the other, they have a Brussels regime which seems intent on slowly strangling them to death.
“Once again the need for an urgent and total root and branch reform of the Common Fisheries Policy has been reinforced.
“Day to day management of our fisheries must be devolved to the member states so that they can involve the fishermen themselves in devising the most appropriate management plans for their stocks.
“Micro-management from Brussels has been a disaster and has to stop. Unfortunately, with these most recent cuts, reform may come too late for some Scottish fishermen.”