SIC - Orkney & Shetland valuation joint board

Brexit / Fisheries deal makes life ‘unnecessarily difficult” for local fishermen

The fishing industry has reacted furiously to news that the UK will remain subject to the Common Fisheries Policy until at least December 2020.Fisheries deal makes life ‘unnecessarily difficult” says SFA chairman James Anderson. Photo: Shetland News

THE FIRST ever post-Brexit fisheries deal between Norway, the EU and the UK for joint stocks in the North Sea has been described as “flawed” and not in tune with the reality on the fishing grounds.

Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA) had to accept a further cut in fishing rights for cod, one of the most important species for local fishermen.

The SFA also said that the gains in quota share from Brexit were not enough to make up for the cut in cod quota.

The Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for 2021 for the six jointly managed stocks are as follows:

  • Cod, minus 10 per cent
  • Saithe, minus 25 per cent
  • Herring, minus 7.4 per cent
  • Plaice, minus 2.3 per cent
  • Haddock, plus 20 per cent
  • Whiting, plus 19.1 per cent.

SFA chairman James Anderson said the further cut in the TAC for cod was based on outdated scientific advice and puts fisherman in a difficult situation.

“We knew as soon as the scientific advice was issued last year that the outlook for cod and saithe in particular was very difficult,” he said.

“Cod has already been cut savagely (-33 per cent in 2019 and -50 per cent in 2020), reflecting the fact that the science has not caught up with a northerly movement in the distribution of the cod stock.

“The ICES [International Council for the Exploration of the Sea] process still focuses on a lack of cod in the southern North Sea and takes no account of its abundance in the northern North Sea, and particularly around Shetland.

“It leaves the industry in an unnecessarily difficult situation – we are facing steep cuts in quota for a stock that is virtually impossible to avoid in our mixed fisheries.”

SFA executive officer Simon Collins said he hoped for better scientific advice in the future when ICES reviews the state of cod science this year.

“We might hope for more accurate recommendations following that exercise, and of course the UK is now able to take an independent view of scientific advice outside the CFP, but it will all be too late for this year,” he said.

“Without full control of access to our waters, we have had little leverage to match quotas with what we are seeing on the fishing grounds.

“In the circumstances, with few cards to play, Scottish government negotiators worked hard to deliver quotas for these species that would undoubtedly have been worse for us if we had still been in the EU and this had been the usual EU-Norway bilateral.”