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Marine / Anger as EU vessels increase their share of catches from UK waters

FISHING leaders have condemned the results of a new report that shows that EU registered fishing boats have further increased the amount of fish they catch in UK waters.

Analysis by Dr Ian Napier of the Scalloway based NAFC Marine Centre shows that more than two thirds of the almost two million tonnes of fish and shellfish caught in the UK exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in 2018 was landed by non-UK boats.

From 2015 to 2018 the share of UK boats landing from the UK’s own waters declined by 16 per cent despite the fact that overall catches made in the UK EEZ have been increasing as a reflection of improved stocks across a broad range of species.

The report coincides with reports that the German authorities have decided not to investigate allegations of an incident 30 miles off Shetland last month when a Spanish owned but German registered gill-netter allegedly attempted to disable local whitefish trawler Alison Kay.

The incident sparked fury among local fishermen who say they have been subjected to similar behaviour for many years in a long running dispute over a large area of fishing grounds to the northwest of the isles.

Haddock landed at Lerwick fish market.

Dr Napier’s finding adds further fuel to the frustrations felt by many in the industry.

Shetland Fishermen’s Association executive officer Simon Collins said: “If ever there was a case for the UK escaping the iron grip of the Common Fisheries Policy, this is it.

“Not content with the fact that overseas vessels were already taking two-thirds of what should be a national natural resource, administrators have gunned the system to ensure that EU27 vessels in particular have taken the biggest share of the increase in catches that have come about due to stock improvements in recent years.”

With the UK Government not asking for an extension of the Brexit transition period by the end of the June deadline, the UK will now drop out of the EU on 31 December regardless of whether or nor a trade agreement is in place.

Collins added: “The UK’s assertion of sovereignty over its own waters at the end of this year will allow us at last to address this outrageous imbalance. Independent coastal states cannot be pushed around in this manner.”

Elspeth Macdonald, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, added: “Dr Napier’s report draws attention to the growing inequity of distribution catching opportunity between the UK on the one hand and the EU27 on the other.

“It is this imbalance that the Scottish industry has campaigned steadfastly to bring to an end with the UK leaving the CFP and becoming an independent, sovereign coastal state with full control over access to our waters.”

Dr Napier’s figures also show that around half of the demersal (or whitefish) stocks caught in the UK EEZ in 2018 – a total of 250,000 tonnes worth more than £500 million – were landed by non-UK vessels.

Meanwhile, 1.4 million tonnes of pelagic fish worth £760 million were landed from the UK EEZ. More than three-quarters of this total volume, and two-thirds by value, was landed by non-UK vessels.

The full report is available at: https://www.nafc.uhi.ac.uk/research/statistics/eez-reports/eez-report-2020-07/

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