By LOUISE THOMASON
THE SCOTTISH government this week gave its full support to the Scottish fishing industry in light of recent EC proposals to cut quotas.
Fishing minister Richard Lochhead met EU fisheries commissioner Joe Borg in Brussels to highlight the effort already being made by Scottish fishermen and to warn against any decision on a new cod recovery plan not acknowledging this.
“Scotland has the greatest stake in the outcome on the negotiations over the future of cod stocks. It is absolutely vital that any new plan recognises the trail blazing success delivered by Scots fishermen over the past year and rewards their efforts,” Mr Lochhead said.
The proposed cuts in quotas of all stock and the closure of grounds in the west of Scotland have been met with widespread apprehension.
Mr Lochhead said: “It is also important that any measures agreed for cod do not have unintended consequences for other stocks given that the North Sea is a mixed fishery.
“We will be pressing Europe to avoid viewing substantial cuts in days at sea for the fleet as some kind of easy solution when in actual fact it would inflict unjustified economic damage on our fleet and onshore sector as well.
“As Scotland has shown this year, there are much better ways of safeguarding stocks.”
MSP Tavish Scott echoed the concerns, as well as those made by Shetland Fisherman’s Association chef executive Hanson Black last week, that there is not enough science behind the proposals.
In a letter to Mr Lochhead, Mr Scott wrote: “[The] industry argues, with considerable persuasion, that, of the 10 main TACs, only four or arguably five have ‘real’ science to back up the stock assessments. In the case of megrim, ling and hake, all face a cut in TAC.
“Because the quota is not being caught, the advice from ICES is to cut again. But this misses the essential link between quota and effort.”
Mr Scott is also asking the Scottish Government to oppose a reported proposal that Scotland should offer to cut the whitefish fleet’s fishing effort, its days at sea, in return for additional cod quota.
In a related announcement, an initiative taken by the Scottish fishing industry was revealed with the launch of revolutionary new nets to be trialled in Peterhead next week.
The nets are designed with a larger mesh size to allow those species with a bigger catch quota, such as haddock, to be caught without unnecessarily catching endangered species such as cod, helping towards the problem of discarded fish.
The initiative was welcomed by First Minister Alex Salmond, who said: “Anything that is based on peoples’ real life experiences is always preferable to theory. It is also consistent with everything we have been doing under the trailblazing Conservation Credits Scheme this year.
“Under the Scheme, fishermen have had unprecedented input into managing our fisheries sustainably. We have worked together to promote and incentivise pro-conservation behaviour.
“Scotland is leading the way in sustainable fisheries management in Europe. Our thinking and expertise is now shaping the debate.”
Isles MP Alistair Carmichael yesterday aired the concerns of the Scottish fishing industry at the House of Commons during the annual fisheries debate. Mr Carmichael told The Shetland Times earlier: “The immediate problems facing the Scottish fishing fleet are the closures planned for the west coast.
“While this [the closures] may not impact Shetland fishermen directly, it will be felt in Orkney and the North East. The danger with closures is displacement . . . we cannot afford to see any area suffering disproportionately.”
Mr Carmichael said he would also be bringing up the broader problem of the lack of reliable data and the need for the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.