Fishermen fear mackerel sell out

PELAGIC fishermen believe the European Commission may let them down in their fight to tackle Iceland and Faroe over huge increases to their mackerel catch.

Fishing leaders meet Scottish fishing secretary Richard Lochhead on Friday in Aberdeen to spell out their concerns ahead of a new round of mackerel negotiations in Ireland on 6 December.

Fishermen say there are “worrying signs” emanating from the European Commission that they want to “put this dispute to bed, whatever the cost”.

Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association chief executive Ian Gatt said that Europe must follow Norway’s example and take a tough stand against the recent unilateral increases in Iceland and Faroe’s quotas.

He also questions what happened to the promise of EU sanctions against the two island states that was due to be outlined last month.

Mr Gatt said: “The Scottish pelagic industry needs an agreement on mackerel, but a deal should be fair and equitable based on fishing practices undertaken over many years.

“Iceland and the Faroes must realise that they are putting the sustainability of a previously well-managed stock in grave danger.”

Iceland has increased its mackerel quota from 323 tonnes in 2005 to 147,000 this year. Faroe have also set themselves a 150,000 tonne quota, up from 30,000 two years ago.

Scotland catches 140,000 tonnes of mackerel, the most valuable species for the fleet, with Shetland boats catching around 40,000 tonnes.

Mr Gatt said fishermen will also be calling for an increase in the herring quota next year, based on a doubling of the stock in the past two years.

They also want to receive a greater share of the blue whiting quota, amid fears that this the EU will hand over quota to Norway in a deal that will not benefit Scotland.