Local fishermen condemn mackerel deal

A SHETLAND fishing leader has condemned the compromise to end the four year long mackerel war as a reward for piracy.

On Wednesday a deal was signed to allocate Faroe 12.6 per cent of mackerel catches in the north east Atlantic while the EU and Norway are to share 71.8 per cent.


The remaining 15.6 per cent have been set aside for Iceland and Russia, who are not part of this trilateral agreement.

While Scottish fishing leaders described the deal as “a significant breakthrough” in the long running stalemate, the Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA) said it was “bitterly disappointed”.

Its chief executive Simon Collins said he was furious at the European Commission for failing to protect the long term interest of the UK pelagic fleet.

His reaction was echoed by Shetland MSP Tavish Scott who said the deal was a “sell-out” that had rewarded the Faroese for breaking an international agreement.

While the 2014 total allowable catch (TAC) for mackerel is very high at 1.24 million tonnes, fears are that long-term the Shetland pelagic industry will suffer once catch allocations reduce.


Under the agreement, Faroe can catch 156,000 tonnes this year, four times the amount they had in 2010.

The EU has agreed a reduced share of 49 per cent (down from 68 per cent), which means that Scotland’s share of this year’s high TAC will be around 210,000 tonnes, part of which has already been caught.

Collins said: “Quite simply, this deal has rewarded Faroese piracy – and fishermen in Shetland are disgusted with the size of the reward.


“Yes, our boats will get an uplift in their own mackerel quotas in the short term, but we are not to be bought off in this fashion.

“The European Commission has not understood that Shetland, like all other successful fishing communities, has a long-term view.”

Two of Shetland's pelagic trawlers tied up at Lerwick harbour: Zephyr and Antarctic - Photo: ShetNews

Shetland’s seven modern pelagic trawlers represent one third of the UK’s fleet that catches mackerel and herring.

Collins added: “The fact is that a vastly reduced quota share seriously compromises the outlook for future generations, as the mackerel stock could contract as well as expand in the course of its natural cycle.

“This fishery is far more important to Shetland than it ever was to Faroe. Yet unelected bureaucrats in Brussels led by an irresponsible fisheries commissioner have been given free rein to betray our community.

“This cavalier treatment of the UK’s most valuable catch is shameful.” 

Scott said: ”This is yet another sobering lesson in all that is wrong over fisheries management. The real lesson for Shetland would appear to be that we must work out what we want and then act accordingly.

“After all that is what Faroe has done with remarkable success. Europe wrings its hands and then caves in. What a shambles.”

However Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said it was important to have reached an agreement.


“There were no winners in this deal with sacrifices and concessions being made by all sides, not least by the Scottish and UK industries which will have a lower overall mackerel share allocation as a result.

“It is highly significant that an important element of this long-standing dispute has finally been resolved as it will go a long way in ensuring that the fishery can be regulated and carefully managed again.

“This will benefit the mackerel stock and bring to an end the considerable uncertainty hanging over our pelagic fishing fleet and the onshore processing sector, both of which make a significant contribution to our economy.”

Meanwhile, the negotiations between Norway and the EU over shared stocks in the North Sea have also reached a conclusion.

Collins said he was pleased that after years of cuts there would be a five per cent increase in the cod quota.

“It’s not long ago that we heard talk from certain quarters that there were only 100 cod left in the North Sea, so it is good finally to have official recognition of what we have been saying for a long time now – that there is a huge amount of cod off our shores.”

However, he voiced his disappointment at cuts in quota for other key species such as haddock, whiting and saithe.