Call for sustainable fisheries

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Final fishing opportunities for 2011 have been set, following the conclusion of the EU’s December Fisheries Council, in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Throughout the Autumn fishery negotiations, Scotland has achieved a range of fishing opportunity improvements on the initial package of European Commission proposals for 2011. By calling for quotas to be set in line with the most up-to-date science available and pushing for measures to reduce discards, the Scottish Government has improved the outlook for the sustainability of stocks and viability of the industry.

A number of Scotland’s 2011 priorities were already agreed with Norway earlier this month, including a substantial expansion of the catch quota scheme, which will end North Sea cod discards for participating vessels. EU-Norway also came to a new mackerel agreement, following Iceland and the Faroes walking away from talks.

Key outcomes for Scotland’s priorities from this Council include:

* A substantial increase in the highly value megrim quota – up 10 per cent for West Coast and 5 per cent in the North Sea
* Monkfish flexibility maintained, with a smaller than expected 2 per cent cut in quota for the West Coast
* Nephrops landings from the North Sea will be able to match 2010 levels
* A range of expected reductions, such as West Coast haddock quota, following management plans

Speaking from Brussels, Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said:

“These tough and exhausting talks have delivered positives for Scotland in some areas and disappointments in others. The future remains challenging for many Scottish fishermen, nevertheless I believe that we have done everything we can to secure a fair deal for Scotland, and to show the Commission that we are pushing for significant change in fisheries management.

“Through the very tough negotiations this autumn, we have fought hard to ensure that robust science has been the cornerstone of our negotiations, as it is in all our interests to support sustainable fisheries and stock recovery.

“It’s frustrating that our West Coast proposals were not taken fully on board at this Council. Our sensible plans for West Coast cod and whiting would have seen a zero Total Allowable Catch, helping these stocks recover, with some provision for unintended by-catch to be landed. Instead, impossibly low quotas will effectively lead to discards, as fishermen are forced to throw dead fish back in to the sea, however, a proposed 50 per cent cut in quota has at least been reduced to 25 per cent.

“We also put forward – with the most up-to-date scientific backing – the case for maintaining monkfish quota and an increase for megrim. Although we have been largely successful on this front, it is frustrating we have to spend so much time negotiating, simply in order to bring quotas in line with the scientific advice.

“No one is satisfied with a system that micro-manages every fishery decision from the Black Sea to the North Sea, from Burgas to Banff, with 27 Member States fighting it out. It is a torturous process and with a broken and ineffective Common Fisheries Policy, the need for huge changes in EU fisheries management is abundantly clear.

“However, I am encouraged by Commissioner Damanaki’s commitment to seek sanctions to deal with the intolerable situation of Iceland and the Faroes setting huge unilateral mackerel quotas. This valuable fishery, carefully managed by the EU and Norway, must be protected and we must now see words translated into action. The commitment of the Commission to fundamentally review the flawed Cod Recovery Plan is also to be welcomed.”