New incentives have been proposed by Marine Scotland to increase catches of valuable Monkfish and Megrim – while boosting cod conservation.
Fishermen have highlighted that days at sea restrictions, applied under the EU’s Cod Recovery Plan (CRP), have had the effect of forcing them to fish in cod-abundant waters closer to port, rather than taking the time needed to seek alternative species in deeper waters, like Monkfish.
As a result, catches of Monkfish have reduced by 27 per cent since 2009. In 2011, this meant that some £2 million of Scottish quota went unlanded.
Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said:
“While we were successful in fighting a draconian cut by Brussels in the days at sea available to our fishermen in 2012, what we are still seeing is that the restrictions in place mean fishermen are struggling to catch their full quotas for some species.
“This concern has been raised by fishermen, in particular those in Shetland. That’s why we have proposed the sensible step of transferring unused effort from the prawn fleet to whitefish boats.
“This change will help enable fishermen to fish their unused Monkfish and Megrim quota, while avoiding cod-abundant waters – where the risk of being forced to discard cod would be higher.
“In this case we have been able to use the limited flexibility available to Scotland to support our industry. However, what this once again illustrates is that the flawed CFP does not make allowances for the complexities of a mixed fishery and that we urgently need more powers returned to the regional level.”
Marine Scotland has proposed a new flexibility that allows fishermen that target Monkfish and Megrim (where their catch is made up of at least 40 per cent of these species) to receive a 50 per cent ‘discount’ on their time at sea; therefore a four-day trip only counts as two days against the vessel’s days at sea allocation. This ‘buy back’ also means that the fishermen targeting these species catch considerably less cod than most fishing trips.
Find out more about fisheries management in Scotland