THE SCOTTISH government has welcomed new European funding for the fishing industry, while environmentalists complain that it will put greater pressure on fish stocks.
Negotiations between the 27 member states in Luxembourg have just decided the shape of a new European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF) to help the industry cope with a reformed Common Fisheries Policy.
The European Commission and environmental campaigners had hoped the deal would put an end to discards.
However comments after the meeting ended in the early hours of Wednesday morning showed a mixed reaction.
Scottish fisheries secretary Richard Lochhead said the new fund, which replaces the existing European Fisheries Fund in 2014, will promote conservation while continuing to support the inshore and offshore fishing fleets as well as fish farms.
However EU fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki said the deal is weaker than she had hoped.
The negotiations were intended to create a more sustainable industry with an emphasis on net innovation to avoid discards.
Environmental pressure group Greenpeace warned the new look fund would be used by big fishing companies to increase the size of their boats and engines.
Greenpeace fisheries policy director Saskia Richartz said: “There is already not enough fish for all the boats out there, so it makes no sense at all for governments to continue throwing subsidies at the EU’s oversized fleet.
“Wasting taxpayers’ money on what causes the problem n the first place is ridiculous – it is like paying someone to rob you.”
Lochhead said: “This morning’s agreement ensures the seafood industry, inshore and offshore fleets and the aquaculture sector can continue to use the fund in its new form to expand and create new jobs – and of course adapt to deliver new CFP proposals currently under negotiation, which tackle key issues such as discards.
“I am also pleased restrictions have been put in place to close the loopholes that allowed funding from previous schemes to be used by some in ways which went against the principles of fisheries conservation.
“Now the taxpayer can be sure public money will be used to promote fisheries conservation, not undermine it.
“We fought hard to make sure the fund retains measures we have previously used with great success in Scotland, including those which help protect and provide support to our fragile fishing communities.
“Now we have successfully negotiated the shape of the fund it is absolutely critical the budget that will deliver it is not subjected to a cut when the key EU budget negotiations take place later in the year.” Later this year negotiations will take place about the size of the new look fund.
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