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Marine / Fish quota settlement ‘challenging’

Lerwick fish market. Photo: Shetland News

FISHING leaders have described next year’s settlement for fishing quotas as “challenging” after the last fisheries council the UK is likely to participate in came to an end in the early hours of Wednesday.

Speaking in Brussels after the conclusion of the talks, Shetland Fishermen’s Association’s Simon Collins said the outcome highlighted the deficiencies of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) as it imposed severe and highly questionable cuts in key quotas.

Most reductions in key quotas for the North Sea, such as cod, haddock and mackerel, were already agreed at the Norway/EU negotiations earlier in December.

“Despite the abundance of local fish stocks, Shetland’s fishermen and fishing communities are to be punished by distant bureaucrats who are utterly obsessed with unworkable rules,” he said.

“The CFP ensures that the European Commission can mismanage fisheries at will and other countries can gang up to harvest more of the natural resources around our shores than we can. This has to end.

“For when we do get out, and start planning with government for the post-Brexit era and a much larger seafood sector, we urge the First Minister to create a standalone fisheries brief under the Cabinet Secretary.”

The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chief executive Bertie Armstrong added: “For the Scottish industry, the central issue has been the inclusion of measures to limit the risk of ‘chokes’ by swapping between member states.

“The Scottish delegation worked long and hard along with their UK colleagues to give the best chance of avoiding fleet shutdown during 2019.”

Scottish fisheries secretary Fergus Ewing said: “This year’s negotiations in Brussels have been undertaken against an extraordinary political backdrop, adding to the already significant challenge of securing a good deal for Scottish fishing.

“Although it is worth noting that we were not in isolation, with reduced quotas being faced by all member states across the board.

“Of course there’s a lot more work yet to be done before 1 January to prepare Scotland’s fleet for what may be a very challenging year ahead, but we will be working closely with industry – as ever – to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for Scottish fishermen.

“One of the side effects of Brexit is that there is no guarantee that Scotland and the UK Government will have a vote on what happens for the foreseeable future, so it’s more important than ever that we do everything in our power to make the most of the current deal – as it could be in place for some time.”