By LOUISE THOMASON
THE EU Fisheries Council got under way this week in Brussels.
The annual council was expected to last three days, with vital decisions on white fish quotas and the future of Scotland’s west coast fishing at the top of the agenda.
The Scottish fishing industry is adamant that while the white fish stocks in the west coast are in danger, the proposed cuts are not the answer and are “disproportionate” and “an over-reaction”.
Speaking earlier in the week, Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chief executive Bertie Armstrong said: “We recognise that the west coast cod, haddock and whiting stocks are in a poor state and action is needed to aid their recovery.
“But the langoustine stock is in a healthy state and the proposal for separator grids for the fishery, which is the bread and butter of the west coast fleet, will effectively close fishing down on the west coast. This would be politically and economically unacceptable and will be opposed at industry, Scottish and UK government levels.”
Fisheries secretary Richard Lochhead was in Brussels to highlight the Scottish cause. Speaking before the meeting, he said the proposals to close the valuable west coast fishery would be fought.
He said: “I have made it clear that we are ready to act to ensure sustainable fisheries on the west coast and we have put forward a robust counter-proposal. The Commission agreed to consider alternative Scottish solutions which protect our valuable and sustainable nephrops fisheries, worth around £45 million on the west coast, and also offer additional protection to stocks at risk.
“By working with and listening to fishermen, the Scottish government has put forward a coherent and positive package of measures which are not based on blunt closures, but on clever ways of operating. “The package includes the use of larger nets, selective gear inside nets which increase the number of whitefish able to escape and increased use of real time and season closures on the west coast – which have proven very effective in the North Sea.
“It is imperative that the measures taken do not close a vital sector of the Scottish fishing industry and the communities they serve from Campbeltown to Stornoway. We in Scotland have shown this year that there are much better ways of ensuring sustainable fisheries.”
Securing a rollover on the important prawn (nephrops) quotas and gaining a sustainable increase in monkfish and megrim quotas are the other key goals.
The Scottish government values the total west coast landings at up to £85 million. The closure of these grounds would affect around 350 whitefish, nephrops and mixed fishery vessels and could have a potentially damaging impact on Shetland’s fishing industry as vessels are displaced to areas closer to the isles.