FISHING leaders are reeling from news that the European Commission is proposing to limit fishing effort to four days a fortnight next year.
Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chief executive Bertie Armstrong described it as “a hammer blow” for the fleet, which is already facing automatic cuts to several important species due to a lack of scientific data.
The alarm was raised after the EC signed off its latest proposal on Wednesday that fishing effort next year should be cut back because some member states had exceeded their allocated fishing effort last year.
“This latest bombshell from the EC is totally is incomprehensible and doesn’t recognise the real and tangible conservation efforts made by our fishermen that has resulted in the recovery of the cod stock,” Mr Armstrong said.
“The current level of cuts already proposed would cause critical damage to the fleet in its own right, but if these additional reductions came into force, then the impact would be unthinkable.”
Shetland MSP Tavish Scott called for the governments in Edinburgh and London to “leave no stone unturned” to resolve the situation.
“I hope that the Scottish Government will make a statement to the Scottish Parliament on this most pressing of issues next week.”
Northern isles MP Alistair Carmichael said that UK government officials were now seeking “urgent clarification” from EC over the proposal signed on Wednesday this week.
Mr Carmichael said: “These suggestions of overfishing make no sense at first sight. The commission will have to explain their reasoning rather better than they have done so far if they are to proceed in this manner.
“I am bound to say that if there has been overfishing, then I strongly suspect that the sheer weight and complexity of regulation will have contributed to that. The commission cannot deny their own responsibility for that.
“I know that UK ministers are seeking urgent clarification from the commission. I will be working with them to do what we can to get this situation resolved.”
Tory MEP Struan Stevenson, vice president of the European Parliament’s fisheries committee, said he had spoken to UK fishing minister Richard Benyon on the issue.
“Scottish whitefish vessels have been participating in good faith in a catch-quota scheme as part of the cod recovery plan that displays the strength of hugely important innovations like CCTV in removing the need for discards,” he said.
“To be told out of the blue that the extra days at sea they expected in return for participation in the scheme is a bizarre change of tack.
“I can assure Scotland’s fishermen that this is not the end of the story. Commissioner Damanaki must be persuaded that the continuance of such micro-management from Brussels cannot go on when it so clearly threatens the very survival of Scotland’s cod fishery.
“I am fully assured that the UK government is united with the Scottish industry in its determination to overturn this abrupt and inexplicable decision.”