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Marine / Fishing quota increases should be ‘welcomed by everyone’, industry says

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THERE is positive news for the local fishing industry after a number of quota increases were confirmed for 2024.

Commercially important fish stocks such as whiting (+124 per cent), haddock (+74 per cent), herring (+29 per cent), saithe (+25 per cent) and cod (+15 per cent) are all increasing.

Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA) chair and Alison Kay skipper James Anderson said it was a statement of confidence in the condition of Scotland’s seas.

“These 2024 quota increases are very much welcomed by Shetland’s family-owned fishing fleet, and should be welcomed by everyone – not just for the benefits that fishing brings to our islands, but for what it tells us about the state of our seas: the reality is that fish stocks are thriving,” he said.

“These quota increases – based on scientific stock assessments – run contrary to the narrative of decline and despair that is often voiced by anti-fishing campaigners for their own political purposes.” 

SFA executive officer Daniel Lawson added: “The few stocks that we do see quota cuts for next year – such as ling, lemon sole and hake – are all classed as ‘data deficient’ by scientists, and so cannot be properly assessed.

“This traps them in a cycle of precautionary quota cuts that do not necessarily reflect the true state of the stock. Mairi Gougeon – the Scottish Rural Affairs Secretary – recently made a welcome commitment to tackling this data deficient status.

“Shetland’s fishermen will do all that they can to assist in this vital work, and have already embarked on a study – in partnership with the University of the Highlands and Islands – to better assess ling stocks. 

“The Scottish Government negotiators have worked hard in our national interest. We will continue to argue that the true economic and social potential of these fish stocks can only be reached if fishing crews are allowed to continue catching them efficiently and without undue obstruction. 

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“All in all, these quota increases show the sustainable nature of our highly regulated fishing fleet, and fishermen look forward to continuing collaborative work with government to ensure that this endures for the future.”

The increased quotas for 2024 build on a general trend of growth in fish stocks around Shetland, with principal whitefish populations in the North Sea having more than doubled since the year 2000, the association said.

Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chief executive Elspeth Macdonald said: “We have had our differences with the Scottish Government this year in relation to the now abandoned HPMA policy, but we have to pay credit to the excellent work of Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Mairi Gougeon and her team at the Marine Directorate who along with colleagues in the UK Government have secured a good deal for our fishermen for 2024.”

Cabinet secretary for rural affairs, land reform and islands Mairi Gougeon said: “Scotland’s approaches to the negotiations were informed by the best available evidence, taking into account scientific advice, socioeconomic factors, and the dynamics of fisheries.

“As always, close engagement with stakeholders across all sectors has been key to the success of these negotiations, and I would like to thank those who worked so constructively with us throughout the process.”

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