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Marine / Fishermen call for ‘shake-up’ of quota setting system

FISHERMEN representatives in Shetland are fuming after the quota deal on next year’s fishing rights for shared stocks in the North Sea left the local industry in a “challenging situation” and for “no credible reason”.

In response to the deal, which was finalised on Friday, Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA) has again called for the creation of an independent panel of experts to examine and evaluate stock assessments made by scientists from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES).

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Negotiating as an independent coastal state the UK agreed catch levels with Norway and the EU, worth £190 million to the UK fleet, according to figures provided by the UK Government.

The catch levels agreed for the six shared stocks for 2022 are:

  • Cod rollover
  • Haddock +5%
  • Herring +20%
  • Plaice -12%
  • Saithe -24%
  • Whiting +25%

Originally, the proposals for the crucial cod quota had been a reduction by 10 per cent on the 2021 catch allowance.

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

The SFA’s executive officer Simon Collins said the agreed quotas bear “little of no resemblance of the abundance of fish observed on the grounds”.

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“We’re sick and tired of going through the same process every year. Wildly erratic stock assessments – often both ways – are held up as sacred truths, despite massive revisions from one year to the next by the people producing them,” he said in a strongly worded statement.

“We are then left working with our national governments to minimise completely unnecessary damage to a perfectly sustainable and valuable industry.”

“It’s no good referring to ‘the best available science’ when that science simply isn’t good enough. Given the lack of alternative views taken into account, it’s also ‘the worst available science’.

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“The outlook for our whitefish fleet in particular is very challenging as a result, and for no credible reason.”

Collins added: “The whole scientific advice process requires a complete shake-up, to the benefit not only of the fishing industry but of our understanding of a dynamic marine environment.”

He paid tribute to the UK/Scottish negotiation team which, he said, had been working hard to get the best result for the UK fleet, and was quick to asserted that the outcome would have worse had the UK remained in the European Union.

“In that respect at least, we are looked upon with envy by our former EU colleagues,” he said.

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