Crunch European Union fishing talks ended in Brussels last night with a couple of key wins for the Scottish lobby which had pressed for measures to take some pressure off the industry.
Scottish Fishing Secretary Richard Lochhead MSP said the outcome would bring relief as the industry prepares to cope with the implications of ongoing measures to cut “discards”, the controversial practice of returning the “wrong” catch dead into the sea.
The key measures agreed tonight by EU Fishing Ministers include a freeze on planned cuts to the number of days that fishermen can go to see, combined with significant gains in quotas, both deals applying for 12 months.
The increases include North Sea monkfish (20%) and prawns (15%), West Coast haddock (14%) and monkfish (20%) and Rockall haddock (113%). A rollover was secured, covering a broad range of stocks including skate, rays and ling, which had previously faced 20 per cent cuts.
However, some key stocks such as west of Scotland prawns, saithe and whiting were subject to some cuts.
The Scottish lobby, operating within the UK delegation, believes that the deal gives the fleet much-needed stability. Key North Sea stock quotas had already been agreed in EU-Norway and EU-Faroe negotiations with agreed increases in North Sea cod (5%), haddock (6%) and plaice (15%).
“Securing a freeze on proposed cuts to days at sea as well as increases in key stocks is welcome news and will help our fishermen with the implementation of the challenging but transformational discard ban which is being phased in from January 2015 onwards,” commented Mr Lochhead.
“These valuable and timely increases, alongside the increases already secured in past weeks, and the rollover secured on a number of other key species are in line with scientific advice and show that stocks are recovering and the fleet’s conservation efforts over the past decade are paying dividends.
“We have secured increases in eight of our ten most valuable stocks across the North Sea and west of Scotland.
“That is good news for the fishing fleet and gives much needed economic stability not just to them, but to our onshore sector and the coastal communities who depend on the jobs the sector provides.
“Over the past few weeks and months I have been making a plea for Europe to give greater urgency to preparing for the implementation of the landing obligation (discard ban) and stressing how we must look at developing 21st century tools, and modern management plans, to provide a workable solution to ensure successful implementation of the ban.”
The discard ban was prompted originally by a public and media outcry about the practice of dumping unwanted fish in the sea.