Richard Lochhead has labelled reports that wrongly imply fish stocks are collapsing as a distraction from Scottish efforts to fish sustainably.
Recent reports have claimed there are only 100 mature cod left in the North Sea – however scientific research estimates there are 21 million mature fish in the North Sea cod spawning stock.
Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said:
“Misleading statements on the state of our fisheries – and cod stocks in particular – has been unhelpful and a distraction from the laudable efforts of Scottish fishermen to support cod recovery.
“The facts show that since 2006 the cod stock has been gradually improving. Scotland has played a big part in this, by achieving the EU’s biggest reductions in the cod discards, while we have led the way with sustainable fishing initiatives.
“Our catch quota trials uses CCTV monitoring has been able to eliminate cod discards for the fishermen involved, while under the Scottish Conservation Credits Scheme vessels use more selective fishing gear to avoid catching undersized and unwanted fish in the first place.
“We are fully committed to ensuring a successful, long term future for Scottish fisheries – and that means following the scientific advice and continuing our measures to fish more sustainably.
“Wilfully misleading and sensational claims that selectively interpret the facts do no nothing to promote this agenda. Scottish consumers can be assured that both government and industry are fully committed securing a viable and successful future for Scottish fishing communities and the fish stocks on which they depend.”
Scientific advice from ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Seas) shows that there are 21 million mature cod (65,000 tonnes) in the North Sea with fish reproducing at a younger age. 60 per cent of four-year-old cod are mature rising to 100 per cent by age six.
Fish discards are the result of ill-fitting EU regulations. Initiatives by Scottish fishermen have meant that cod discard rates have fallen from 62 per cent in 2007 to 24 per cent in 2011.