LEAVING the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is more urgent than ever, according to the chief officer of the Shetland Fishermen’s Association, Simon Collins.
Reacting to the outcome of the EU/Norway negotiations that will see the important and valuable cod quota slashed by 50 per cent for 2020, Collins said the result illustrated exactly what was wrong with the dreaded CFP.
The Scottish Government said the significant cut in the North Sea cod quota reflected scientific advice on declining numbers.
The negotiations, concluded on Friday, also agreed quota reductions for saithe (-15 per cent) and whiting (-13 per cent), but increases in haddock (23 per cent) and plaice (17 per cent) and a rollover for herring.
Seasonal closures to protect North Sea cod while spawning in the first quarter of the year were also agreed.
The outcome of the EU/Norway talks will be formally ratified at the European Council meeting this week.
Collins said: “This outcome illustrates exactly why every fishing industry in Europe wants to be shot of the Common Fishing Policy.
“Together with industry representatives from all around the North Sea, including Norway, and working closely with the Scottish government, we had put together a responsible and credible package of measures on cod that would have fully met sustainability objectives as well as the legal constraints bearing on the EU.
“The EU’s decision to go instead with a simplistic read-out of a single line from a computer model is staggeringly irresponsible. Fisheries management should be a grown-up discussion around a complex ecosystem, not an infantile read-out from computer modelling that all sides know is desperately flawed.”
While the UK is expected to leave the CFP on 31 January 2020, the passage of the withdrawal agreement through parliament will effectively keep the UK bound to quotas agreed at this week’s European Council meeting until the end of next year.
“For Shetland’s fishing fleet, leaving the CFP is more urgent now than ever,” Collins added.
“Fish stocks in our waters – including cod – are heading the right way, and our coastal and island communities deserve a responsible management regime. It’s about time we got one.”
Scottish fisheries minister Fergus Ewing said: “This year’s talks have taken place against some difficult scientific advice – particularly for North Sea cod. While I welcome an agreement, the outcome is disappointing.
“A cut of this size will be very challenging for Scottish fishing businesses. We recognise the need to manage fish stocks sustainably, necessitating a substantial reduction, but it is regrettable that once again the main burden has fallen on Scotland.
“We have significant concerns about a methodology that recognises poor cod stocks in the Southern North Sea, but seems to disregard much healthier numbers in Northern waters. We will press for action to address this.”
The minister pledged the Scottish Government would do everything it could to support the industry.
“It is clear that Brexit considerations are playing a role in this year’s negotiations, with Scotland’s interests being compromised by being part of the member state which is choosing to walk away, but I will continue to do all I can to champion the interests of our fishing industry.”
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