FISHERIES secretary Richard Lochhead has bit back at campaigners calling for his resignation over remarks concerning Scotland’s track record on mackerel conservation.
On Tuesday welfare charity Animal Concern said Mr Lochhead’s claim at the weekend that Scottish fishermen had sustainable managed the mackerel fishery for the past 10 years was “misleading”.
Campaign consultant John Robins backed up his call by highlighting the 14 fishing skippers who have admitted more than 500 illegal landings of mackerel and herring worth more than £37 million at Lerwick’s Shetland catch processing factory between 2002 and 2005.
On Wednesday Mr Lochhead said Mr Robins’ statement was “ill informed” and his resignation call was “ridiculous”.
The fishing secretary pointed out that the government had investigated and prosecuted the illegal landings and forced the fishermen, most of whom were from Shetland, to repay the quota of fish they had taken illegally.
He said: “Scotland’s fishermen, working with environmental groups, have won plaudits throughout Europe for their conservation efforts.
“Scottish mackerel was the first large scale fishery to be accredited by the Marine Stewardship Council, recognising its sustainability. In fact the mackerel stock biomass has increased from 2.2 million tonnes in 2000 to over 2.9 million tonnes in 2010, thanks to careful management by Scotland, Norway and others in the EU.
“Unlike Iceland and the Faroes – who are pursuing a policy of overfishing on a huge scale – the Scottish government has dealt very seriously with overfishing, as illustrated by the firm action taken on over-quota mackerel landings between 2001 to 2006, where those concerned have had to pay back the quota. These are the cases currently subject to legal proceedings.
“Such incidents are not representative of the fishing practices of the Scottish fleet today. Our fishermen have made real progress on responsible fishing practices, to safeguard the future of both fish stocks and the industry.”
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