By LOUISE THOMASON
THERE was good news for the fishing industry this week with an agreement on future cod quotas.
After lengthy talks in Oslo, on Wednesday the EU and Norway decided on an increase of 30 per cent in cod quota for 2009, something the Scottish fishing industry had been hoping for to allow for a reduction in discards.
Discards had been the main focus of the meeting and the sensitive nature of this had meant the talks were drawn out longer than usual.
Shetland Fishermen’s Federation chief executive Hansen Black, who was in Oslo at the meeting, said: “From a cod point of view [the news] is very welcome. There’s been a lot more cod on the ground in the last few years which has been at odds with the scientists and managers.”
However he had concerns about how the deal would impact on fishermen in real terms. “Clearly there are worries in how management will deal with the fleet.”
Scottish Fishermen’s Association chief executive Bertie Armstrong welcomed the news, although he admitted the agreement would not be without difficulties.
He said: “In particular there are limits on the speed of uptake of the cod quota which, if reached, will have effects across the whole Scottish fleet fishing in the North Sea. These new management measures will bring big challenges to which we must rise to in 2009.”
However he was confident that Scotland’s work so far in attempting to reduce discards would hold Scottish fishermen in good stead for the challenges to come. Scottish Whitefish Association executive chairman Mike Park agreed, and said the industry would be glad to see their efforts in tackling the issue of discards have paid off.
He said: “The increase is also tied to measures to reduce mortality contained within the recently signed Cod Recovery Plan.”
As well as an increase in the cod quota, the deal has resulted in reductions in the total allowable catch (TAC) of North Sea herring by nine per cent and an 11 and 15 per cent quota reduction for haddock and North Sea whiting respectively.
Norway will impose minimum catch sizes to help protect juvenile cod and a ban on all high-grading – the practice of dumping lower priced but still marketable fish.
And while Scottish vessels will be obligated to prove through documentation to the Norwegian authorities that they have enough quota to fish in Norwegian waters, there will also be measures introduced to assist them in making the quota last all year.
Fisheries minister Richard Lochhead said the agreement signalled a “golden opportunity” for the industry.
“The 30 per cent increase in cod quota is a fair reward for our fishermen who have already adopted trail blazing conservation measures and have now signed up to do more. Our ‘catch less, land more’ policy has been vindicated.”
“The Scottish government and industry working together have delivered a very good deal for our fishermen, fisheries conservation and consumers.”
Further decisions will be made at the EU Fisheries Council next week, where Scottish fishermen will be looking for a decision on the West Coast fisheries.