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Mackerel compromise triggers jobs concern

A FISHERMEN’S leader in Shetland is warning of job losses in the pelagic industry should a European compromise proposal to solve the mackerel dispute be accepted by this week’s EU fisheries council.

Simon Collins, the new chief executive of the Shetland Fishermen’s Association, said allocating Faroe and Iceland 11.9 per cent each of the allowable catch would be rewarding them for piracy.

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For years now a war a words is raging among coastal states that jointly fish the valuable northeast Atlantic mackerel stocks after Faroe and Iceland pulled out of an international agreement and allocated themselves massive catch increases.

Collins is calling on the UK fishing minister George Eustice and his Scottish counterpart Richard Lochhead to resist any attempts to rush into a “Commission-sponsored quick fix”.

It is understood that the proposal will be tabled as an item under ‘any other competent business’ at Thursday’s meeting.

The EU is proposing the compromise deal on the back of scientific advice that would see the 2014 total allowable catch (TAC) for the northeast Atlantic mackerel stock grow by a substantial 64 per cent to almost 890,000 tonnes.

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Collins said: “While everyone wants an end to the dispute and to see a return to stability, this deal is quite simply a reward for piracy on the part of Iceland and Faroe.

“They have deliberately flouted the responsible management system that was set up to ensure the sustainability of the mackerel stock in the northeast Atlantic.

“Yes, our boats would be given an increase in the quantity of fish they could catch, but much more significantly their share of the overall mackerel quota would be severely reduced.”

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He called on the fishing ministers to examine the long-term consequences of the deal on an industry, which is worth £130 million to Scotland last year.

Pelagic fishermen in Shetland would rather see the existing quota level maintained to allow time for sanctions to have an impact, he said.

“We are very uneasy about the haste with which a deal is being sought. The European Commission is proposing to give away mackerel. Instead, we should be fighting for the future of our fishermen.

“As the latest ICES advice suggests, mackerel stocks are currently in a very healthy state, but population levels are cyclical.

“When they reduce, our fishing effort will be squeezed based on a reduced share of the TAC and we simply won’t be able to sustain our present fleet – a fleet which has been built over many years on one of the most stable fishing opportunities our men have ever seen.

“What this deal heralds is no jobs for the sons and grandsons of members of this community who have taken great personal risks to build a successful pelagic fleet in the first place.”

Meanwhile the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association has had its first meeting with the UK fishing minister George Eustice who was only last week appointed to the job.

The association’s chief executive Ian Gatt said afterwards: “Our first meeting with Mr Eustice was extremely useful and the association found the minister to be well informed which was demonstrated by his considered responses. 

“The association and the minister agreed to stay in close contact during the autumn negotiating season.”

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