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Discard ban concerns

PRESSURE is growing on the European Commission to allow for a more gradual introduction of the discard ban for places highly dependent on a mixed fishery such as Shetland.

Last week, Shetland Fishermen’s Association executive officer Simon Collins told the European Parliament’s fisheries committee that the introduction of the discard ban in January was likely to undermine the viability of the local whitefish fleet.

As of 1 January all fish caught in demersal nets will have to be landed regardless of what quota individual boats have left.

Collins told the committee that in a fishery that produces an average of five different species per tow it was extremely difficult for fishermen to comply with the incoming regulations.

Euro MP Ian Hudghton has now written to fisheries commissioner Karmenu Vella further emphasising those concerns.

He said: “Nobody wants to see dead fish thrown back into the sea, least of all fishermen themselves.  

“Discards were however part and parcel of the old and discredited CFP, and it is to be hoped that the new policy can bring improved fisheries management methods that will help to avoid unwanted catches.

“The changes necessary cannot however be brought about overnight.  Fishermen in Shetland and around Scotland’s coast often bring in highly mixed catches and it’s not possible to be fully selective.

“Fishermen must be allowed to adapt and develop new systems to comply with the new regime.  

“This means cooperation between the local and national authorities and the fishermen themselves, who are best placed to know the situation in their own waters.

“The Commission must move away from governing by central diktat – and allow fishermen in places like Shetland to utilise their experience and expertise to help shape a sustainable and economically viable future for themselves.”