NORWEGIAN fishing chiefs have been criticised for pushing for a huge increase in mackerel quota for next year.
High level talks in London between the European Union, Norway and Faroe have seen the total allowable catch (TAC) for mackerel set at a level 33 per cent above that permitted last year.
Chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation Bertie Armstrong says that level – pushed for by Norway – could lead to a “boom and bust” situation.
“The first rounds in the annual process of setting fishing opportunity are well underway and last Friday the allowable catch for mackerel – a stock vital to the Scottish industry – was set for 2009 at a level 33 per cent above that permitted last year.
“The North East Atlantic mackerel stock is in excellent health and at first glance this appears like good news.
“Actually, the long term view taken by the Scottish industry was that 25 per cent would have been the correct increase, aimed at stability of catching opportunity and avoiding ‘boom and bust’.
“This view was reached after a year of hard work by the Pelagic Regional Advisory Council – the principal stakeholder group – and ICES scientists.”
Mr Armstrong said the negotiations had been characterised by Norway “chasing advantage for itself at every turn”, while being keen to portray itself as the guardian of moderation.
He said Scotland, meanwhile, held a more sensible view.
“The best interests of everyone are served by realistically moderate fishing and a consistent approach to negotiations for catches.”
The EU quota for mackerel is worth almost £80 million a year, and much of it is allocated in Shetland.
Despite Mr Armstrong’s views, Scottish fisheries secretary Richard Lochhead says stock has been managed sustainably.
“It is absolutely right that our fishermen are starting to reap the benefits from some of the difficult decisions they have taken.”