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Discards – a plan, not a ban

Jean Urquhart MSP and Euro MP Ian Hudghton in Lerwick on Tuesday - Photo: Shetland News

SCOTTISH Euro MP Ian Hudghton is quietly confident that the ongoing Common Fisheries Policy review will eventually lead to a more de-centralised management system.

Mr Hudghton, an MEP since 1998, is in Shetland this week for talks with the local fishermen’s association as well as representatives from the aquaculture industry.

He will also hold a joint surgery with highlands and islands list MSP Jean Urquhart at the Islesburgh Community Centre, on Wednesday between 6.30 and 7.30pm.

Last year the European Commission published its proposals for CFP reform which are now to be debated and amended by the European Parliament.

So far 2,600 amendments to the original document have been tabled, 100 of which have come Mr Hudghton himself.

He said there was always the danger that the reform process would end up in a “muddled compromise”, but there is hope for some “substantial de-centralisation” as the commission itself has accepted the current CFP has failed.

“The important thing from my point of view as an MEP is that this time the European Parliament has co-decision powers, meaning that our collective view cannot be ignored.

“I have 100 amendments tabled to the commission’s proposals, one of which is to preserve the Shetland Box, others to maximise the amount of decentralisation and the return of real power to Europe’s fishing nations so that they can work together in logical sea areas and manage the resource for their long term benefits.

“I think only that kind of structure will provide the incentive that is needed for people who want to conserve and gain the benefit from their own sacrifices.”

Responding to widely held fears that a complete ban on discards would force the local whitefish industry out of business, he insisted that what was needed was not a ban, but a plan to gradually reduce the amount of fish thrown overboard.

He said the Scottish fleet had already come a long way down this road. “We have in recent years been acting and succeeding in drastically reducing discards by increased selectivity and other measures as part of the cod recovery plan. We have shown that local actions can succeed.

“The last figure that I am aware of is that discards have been reduced by 40 per cent. That is substantial. “We have also to accept that within a mixed fishery it is extremely difficult, in fact impossible, to only catch one kind of fish when they are all swimming around together.

“We have to recognise that fact, and quotas have to be set at levels that allow for that fact. Up until now one of the substantial causes of discards have been the CFP regulations themselves.”

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