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Discard ban delayed

Tory MEP and fisheries spokesman Ian Duncan has taken credit for delaying a cod discard ban by 12 months.

AS THE fishing industry shoals up in Brussels for the annual quota talks, upbeat news on catching limits remains tarnished by anger over mackerel allowances and concerns about the discard ban.

Fishing leaders are high about cod and haddock quotas being set to rise significantly.

They are also relieved a plan to introduce a discard ban on cod in three weeks has been delayed by 12 months.

However stalled negotiations over Faroe’s right to catch a large percentage of its mackerel quota in EU, especially Scottish and Shetland waters, has aggravated local fishermen.

Shetland Fishermen’s Association executive officer Simon Collins said the current agreement is “hopelessly skewed” in favour of Shetland’s Scandinavian neighbours.

Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association chief executive Ian Gatt said he was “bitterly disappointed” the deal could not be revisited.

Scottish fisheries secretary Richard Lochhead said the current deal was set in stone for the next five years.

Meanwhile Conservative fisheries spokesman in Brussels Ian Duncan took credit for reversing a decision earlier in the week to introduce the discard ban for cod on 1 January.

Despite attending the Paris climate talks, Duncan said he applied pressure on his fellow Fisheries Committee members to vote through the change.

He said it was incredible that the SNP had joined UKIP in voting for the early introduction of the ban.

“I welcome the intervention of my colleague Peter van Dalen MEP who was instrumental in ensuring the U-turn by the Fisheries Committee,” Duncan said.

“As a result of us applying pressure on the committee, the discard ban will again be phased in as was originally planned, applying to cod from 1 January 2017.

“Those who sit on the Fisheries Committee must pay greater heed to the implications of their actions.

“Had my colleagues not been able to reverse this decision, it would have been a bleak Christmas for many. Lessons must be learned from this debacle.”

Meanwhile, Shetland Fishermen’s Association has added a new policy advisor to its ranks.

Maria Aira Martin, who originally hails from Galicia in Spain, will be tasked with promoting Shetland’s fishing industry in Europe.

The former trainee fisheries official with the European Council of Ministers will also help to project the industry’s voice in parliament in Scotland, the UK and Europe.

“I know from my time working in the fishing industry in Spain just how important it is for the economy,” Martin said.

“But there’s something that goes beyond the facts and figures. I feel it is also part of the identity of the community and that has been confirmed in the short time I have been in Shetland.

“The industry here has a responsible approach to sustainability, there are fantastic quality stocks and everybody works well together.

“But it faces significant challenges, like the discard ban, and dealing with that and the different layers Shetland has to deal with – Scotland, the UK and the EU – convinced me to move here to try to do something meaningful.”

SFA executive officer Simon Collins said Martin’s appointment will see Shetland’s fishing industry’s “arguments put across better” in Brussels.

“Having someone who’s got an insight into how things actually works makes all the difference,” he said.

“The industry has traditionally been quite old fashioned and slow to move with the times, and one of the big changes in the last twenty years is the shift in power from national governments to Brussels.”

Scottish Parliament election, 6 May 2021