Scottish government says EU fisheries proposals ‘do not go far enough’

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by a Newsnet reporter

The Scottish government has welcomed the proposals to change the EU’s fish quota scheme, but says that they do not go nearly far enough.

Maria Damanaki, EU commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said that it was vital that the EU took steps to ensure the viability of fish stocks.  In a statement, Ms Damanaki said: “This means that we have to manage each stock wisely, harvesting what we can but keeping the stock healthy and productive for the future.”

The commissioner said that the EU was considering the abolition of the quota system which sets a strict limit on how many fish of each species the fishing fleet can catch.  As an unintended consequence, fishermen were throwing large number of dead fish back into the sea in order to keep their catches within quota limits.  Alternative proposals include targets to halt overfishing and to bring fish stocks back to sustainable levels by 2015.

Speaking in reaction to the announcement from the EU commissioner, Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said that the while Scottish Government supports moves to conserve fish stocks, the EU proposals were weak and “did not go nearly far enough”.

In a statement released on Thursday, Mr Lochhead said: “I welcome the fact the EU has put forward long-awaited proposals for change, however they need to be a lot more radical if Brussels is not to repeat the many mistakes that have caused so much damage in recent decades.

“Thankfully, there is the opportunity to improve these initial proposals during the tough negotiations that lie ahead over the next two years. With implementation of a new policy planned for 2013, it’s critical that Scotland’s voice is heard in Europe so we can influence its development and bring our expertise to the table.

“I’m pleased that the meaningful conservation of stocks is set to be at the heart of a reformed CFP, with the ecological and economic madness of the discarding of marketable fish – currently enforced on our fishermen by the CFP – to be addressed.

“I am concerned, however, that a one-step move to a blanket ban on discards could prove counter-productive. Instead, we should be working with fishermen on practical measures that would stop these discarded fish being caught in the first place.”

The Scottish Government has long complained that Iceland and the Faroe Islands, which are outside the EU, have increased their quotas for 2011 allowing their fishing fleets to catch more fish than in previous years.

Ms Damanaki has said that she would consider trade sanctions against Iceland and the Faroes in October in order to press them to change their fishing policies.