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EU wants deeper cuts to quotas & days at sea

Shetland white fish boat Arcturus, an example of conservation measures in practice, according to MSP Tavish Scott.

SCOTTISH fishing leaders are bracing themselves for a battle to reverse proposals to cut cod and monkfish stocks by 20 per cent at this month’s European fisheries council.

The Scottish Parliament heard on Tuesday how infighting within the European Commission could force through cuts in quotas and days at sea, despite strong evidence fish stocks have been accumulating.

Fishing secretary Richard Lochhead called for current catch limits to be maintained, but Shetland MSP Tavish Scott went further, demanding they be increased.

The government also had to challenge proposals for white fish boats to be allowed just 75 days at sea in 2013, Scott insisted, saying it would not let them catch what little quota they had.

He pointed out Shetland boats were at the forefront of conservation measures, mentioning the Arcturus crew who recently caught 360 boxes with only one box of undersized fish.

“This shows that our boats are using net sizes that meet the stringent conservation requirements,” Scott said.

“Skippers and crews should be rewarded for this with increased quotas and days at sea.

“That would reflect the huge changes to our local fleet and the determination and skill of those making a living from the sea, encouraging them to continue a successful business.”

After hearing that a turf war had broken out in Brussels between ministers, parliament and officials over who made decisions about quotas, Scott added: “Europe is not fit to run a whelk store far less be responsible for sustainable fisheries management.”

Fisheries secretary Richard Lochhead

Lochhead said the proposed reductions were being driven by the rigid rules of the flawed cod recovery plan, and called for current catch limits to be maintained.

“Cutting the cod quota by 20 per cent is a straightforward recipe for massive discards,” he said.

“Our fishermen won’t be able to avoid catching ever more plentiful cod for which they have no quota and will be forced – against their will – to dump dead overboard.

“Scotland has put forward a sound scientific case for maintaining cod landings at this year’s level, avoiding discards while still achieving a healthy recovery of the stock by 2015.

“That’s why at this month’s end of year negotiations in Brussels I will be demanding that the North Sea cod quota is rolled over next year.”