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Pelagic fisherman demand fair Faroe deal

The Faroese supertrawler Kristian I Grotinum detained in Lerwick last November. Photo Ian Leask

Pelagic fishermen from across Scotland have united to demand an urgent rethink of the political deal allowing Faroe to catch a third of its 40,000 tonne mackerel quota in EU waters.

They have been backed by northern isles MP Alistair Carmichael in the House of Commons.

Fishermen are angry that Faroe have taken advantage of a mutual access agreement to catch 1,400 tonnes more mackerel in EU waters than the deal agreed last year allows, according to a study by industry body Seafish.

In contrast Scottish vessels have caught no mackerel or blue whiting in Faroese waters.

In a joint statement ahead of crunch EU-Faroe talks in Copenhagen next week, the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association (SPFA) and the Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA) are pressing for change.

SPFA chief executive Ian Gatt said: “The deal with Faroe has some positive elements, principally giving a small number of Scottish whitefish boats access to Faroese quota.

“But on the pelagic side the Faroese have been given an inch and taken a mile, even over-shooting their permitted quota.

“This deal is having a real negative impact on the pelagic processing sector. As Faroe can catch high quality mackerel from our waters they can now access our hard fought for markets.

“This shows there is a fundamental imbalance in this fisheries arrangement which needs to be changed now.”

SFA executive officer Simon Collins added: “It cannot be beyond the wit of EU negotiators to obtain a fairer deal on mackerel fisheries without endangering EU access to Faroese waters for other stocks.

“Current access arrangements are so skewed in favour of Faroe that it is hard to imagine how the EU got to this situation in the first place.”

Their views were echoed in Westminster by Carmichael, who said: “The Faroese were given an inch in 2014, since which time they have taken a mile.

“The deal looks more and more unbalanced with every day that passes. It requires urgent attention from Britain and the EU.”

Scottish Parliament election, 6 May 2021