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Marine / Outcry over Faroese fishing rights

The pelagic trawler Altaire. Photo: Shetland Fishermen's Association

THE Scottish pelagic fishing industry has reacted with outrage to news that Faroese trawlers can catch almost 25,000 tonnes of mackerel in the waters around Shetland next year.

The pelagic industry was under the impression it was to be consulted on the issue that has angered local fishermen for years.

But according to the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association (SPFA), last year’s deal has simply been rolled over into 2019 at the EU/Faroe fish talks.

This grants Faroese vessels 24,690 tonnes of mackerel from the waters around Shetland – more than is allocated to the islands’ own eight pelagic boats.

SPFA chief executive Ian Gatt called the agreement “an utter disgrace”.

“The Commission has gone back on its word to review this arrangement in light of what UK industry and government are saying to them and hold annual negotiations,” he said.

“It is imperative that this issue is raised by UK and Scottish ministers at the December Fisheries Council.”

Simon Collins of Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA) added: “Mackerel is a key priority for the UK and Scotland, yet the EU has once again put the interests of a non-member fishing nation ahead of its own, underlining starkly why the sooner the UK is out of the Common Fisheries Policy the better.

“This must be revisited and a proper solution taking into account the imbalance of the arrangement needs to be found.”

Scottish fishing minister Fergus Ewing said he knew that part of the fishing sector would react with disappointment at the outcome but added that he was “broadly content with the benefits for Scotland’s whitefish fleet in terms of quota exchanges”.

He added: “The decision to rollover current arrangements on mackerel, rather than bring that back to the negotiating table is particularly concerning, and goes against commitments previously made by the Commission.

“I know that Commissioner Vella shares my belief in the need for transparent and open negotiations, so I will seek to discuss with him how we move on from these negotiations to achieve that.

“Going into next week’s crucial December council meeting in Brussels, it’s absolutely vital that the UK delegation leave with the strongest possible hand, and with the interests of Scotland’s fishing sectors at heart.”