Skippers offered discard reduction plan

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Following the agreement to expand Scotland’s catch quota scheme at last week’s EU-Norway talks, Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead has written to all eligible Scottish skippers.

Under the terms of the new EU-Norway bilateral, Scotland’s catch quota scheme could more than double the 17 vessels currently involved in the trial to land, rather than be forced to discard, an extra amount equal to 12 per cent of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for cod.

Mr Lochhead:

“With the final EU AgriFish Council negotiations taking place next week, we anticipate further challenges in the fishing opportunities available to the Scottish fleet in 2011. However, I will be doing everything possible to secure the best deal I can for Scotland.

“At last week’s negotiations between the EU and Norway we secured an expansion of our innovative catch quota scheme. Unlike traditional quotas, where vessels have a set limit on the fish they can land and are forced to throw excess fish back in the sea dead, catch quotas allows for all fish caught to be landed. By stopping wasteful discards, this means less fish are taken from the sea yet more can be landed by our fishermen.

“While we were seeking to widen the scheme even further, and broaden out to other species, it is positive that the scheme can include more Scottish fishermen next year. That’s why I have written to all eligible skippers to invite them to put forward an application, so we can get the new scheme up and running as soon as possible.

“Of course, catch quotas alone will not provide the solution to the difficulties facing our fleet and fundamental changes to Europe’s flawed Common Fisheries Policy are needed. My priority is to deliver the best deal possible for Scottish fishermen in the year ahead, even in the context of the current, broken framework.”

Under the catch quota scheme every fish caught is landed, without discarding, and the activities of participating fishing vessels is fully documented through on-board cameras. Vessels receive a higher cod quota and the removal of discards reduces overall fish mortality while increasing landings.

In 2009, 60,000 tonnes of North Sea whitefish worth £68 million were landed in Scotland, while the total catches were 88,000 tonnes worth an estimated £101 million. This means Scottish vessels were forced by Europe’s CFP to discard almost 28,000 tonnes of fish, worth £33 million last year.

Following the EU-Norway agreement for shared North Sea stocks, quotas for key Scottish fisheries will be agreed at next week’s AgriFish Council, including nephrops (prawns), monkfish, megrim and west coast haddock.