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Marine / Latest fish catching quota advice triggers calls for substantive reform

Nets are being mended at Lerwick's new Mair's Pier. Photo: SFA

SCOTLAND’s two largest fishing associations have called for a “substantive” reform of the way recommendations for fish quotas are made after describing the latest advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) as flawed.

The Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA) and the Scottish White Fish Producer’s Association (SWFPA) are also urging the UK and Scottish governments to set up an independent panel to properly scrutinise any advice coming from ICES, which is based in Copenhagen.

The latest ICES advice for 2022 recommends a reduction of the total allowable catch (TAC) for North Sea cod of 10.3 per cent and North Sea and West Coast saithe of 24 per cent.

At the same time, ICES is advocating increases for North Sea and West Coast haddock of 154 per cent and North Sea whiting of 236 per cent.

Shetland Fishermen's Association executive officer Simon Collins said the white paper's "headline points are precisely what we have insisted on from day one".
Shetland Fishermen’s Association executive officer Simon Collins. Photo: Shetland News

These set of figures don’t bear any relation to fishermen’s experience, according to Simon Collins, the SFA’s executive officer.

“With such wild swings in both directions a regular occurrence in recent years, it is clear that ICES needs to take a good hard look at the process and consider whether its modelling is still relevant,” he added.

“At the same time, our governments need to ask themselves whether they are willing to create insoluble problems for our fishing fleet simply because a computer says so. The computer has often been wrong in the past, and in terms of cod at least it is catastrophically wrong now.”

SWFPA chief executive Mike Park, added: “It is very clear that ICES has not kept up with changes in the ecosystem, such as the migration of cod stocks which appears to be being driven by climate change.

“The SWFPA and SFA ask the Scottish Government to take seriously their suggestion of an independent panel to assess these numbers and put them into proper perspective.

“It is also time for urgent engagement by both the Scottish and UK governments with industry on this issue.

“There is no point in advising large increases in quotas for some stocks when absurdly small quotas for others caught at the same time prevent vessels from going to sea. Fish don’t swim together in neat shoals of their own species.”