By LOUISE THOMASON
The Scottish government’s latest fisheries conservation scheme has been met with anxiety from those in the industry.
Both Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chief executive Bertie Armstrong and MSP Tavish Scott have expressed concern about the Conservation Credits II scheme, an interim arrangement which replaces the previous Conservation Credits Scheme.
The scheme aims to prevent too many fish being removed from the sea, allowing fish stocks and cod in particular to recover.
Under the scheme, fishermen will be able to “buy back” days at sea in exchange for employing a range of conservation methods, including specialised nets which allow cod and smaller fish to escape.
Mr Armstrong warned that while Scotland’s fleet had been pioneering sustainable fishing, the practicalities of the new measures would be difficult for fishermen.
He said: “While we in Scotland are a step ahead with a year’s experience behind us of days-at-sea being managed from Edinburgh and not Brussels, we must not fail to recognise the stark reality that this year there is less available effort – or time at sea – to go round.
“The initial basic allocation includes a very severe reduction, particularly for some sections of the fleet. The changes in gear and in fishing patterns required to recover some of those days back will make a very real difference to commercial viability.
“The reason for these measures in the first place is to reduce – in a recovering stock – the total amount of cod removed from the sea. The Scottish industry has demonstrated a willingness to make this happen and will continue to do so. There will now be a period of consultation and the end result has to be a set of measures that will permit an industry that is already fishing sustainably to remain commercially sustainable as well.”
Mr Scott said: “The full details of the scheme are not yet known, but the initial information, with many boats facing 15 per cent cuts in their days-at-sea, is worrying. It looks likely that the Shetland boats will be hit hard, and their financial viability will be damaged, as a result of this deal.
“It is clear from my soundings that the upbeat view of the fisheries minister, who launched this scheme by saying that it got the industry ‘off to a flying start’, is not shared by Shetland fishermen.
“Back in the autumn, the Shetland Fishermen’s Association and I warned the minister that cuts in fishing opportunities would be very damaging. I fear that the Shetland fleet is going to be hit hard by the cuts announced today and that, regrettably, we will be proved right.”