SNP PRESIDENT Ian Hudghton has given a cautious welcome to the publication of a European Commission document which kicks off the debate on reform of fisheries management within the EU.
He said the paper, which will be debated at a meeting of fisheries ministers next week, acknowledged that the CFP had been a failure to date and that regional management solutions may offer the best way forward.
However, Mr Hudghton warned that the future of fisheries management must ensure that waters are fished only by those fleets with historic rights to do so. He added that fisheries reform must not be used as a means of allowing a free-for-all for oversized fleets.
Mr Hudghton said: “The Commission has acknowledged that the Common Fisheries Policy has been a complete disaster. After quarter of a century of Brussels control, some may say this acknowledgement is too late; nevertheless, moves towards the dismantling of this failed policy can only be seen as a step in the right direction.
“The Commission seems to be coming round to the view that the current annual horse-trading of quotas at December’s Fisheries Council is no way to manage a precious natural resource. They have also suggested a more regional maritime strategy, with key solutions being implemented by member states. These views are a welcome contrast to the current system which is all too centred on Brussels.
“However, the debate is in its early stages and Scotland’s fishing interests will be up against powerful forces in other parts of the EU who would be delighted to gain access to Scottish waters. The Commission has called for a re-examination of relative stability, the principle by which fishing quotas are allocated to the states who have traditionally fished a given piece of water.”
He said the review offered the EU a chance to start again, with management decisions taken at a level close to the fishing grounds. “We must ensure that reform is not used as an excuse for the likes of Spain’s fleet to gain access to new waters. Traditional fishing rights must remain with the nations who have traditionally fished those waters.”