Fishermen in Shetland have reluctantly accepted the new days at scheme agreed between the industry and the Scottish Government following two days of talks back in March.
But the Shetland Fishermen’s Association is about to undertake a research project which it hopes will show more restrictive net mesh sizes, which boats can use in return for gaining more time at sea, have an unduly negative effect on the local fleet, especially those fishing for megrim and monkfish.
The discussions between the industry and fisheries minister Richard Lochhead followed restrictions imposed by the European Commission in December designed to reduce cod mortality by 25 per cent.
Fishermen were unhappy with the reduction in days at sea that the restrictions led to. The new scheme will give all fishermen a choice about how to receive their days at sea so that they can take their own circumstances into account and make special arrangements for new vessels – wherever possible – to gain an allocation of days more suited to their likely fishing pattern.
Mr Lochhead said: “In these testing economic times and in light of the deal reached at December Council we have worked closely with the industry to come up with a new scheme that makes the best of our limited national effort pots.
“We are also seeking exemption from the days at sea regime for over 70 of our vessels that catch very little cod. “Over two thirds of skippers who responded to our consultation were in favour of keeping the same basic method of allocation – the same rate per vessel type – that has been used in the past.
“The Conservation Credits steering group – which involves the industry – has decided the best option is to allow vessels a choice about how to apply for days at sea. “For many vessels, the basic rates of days at sea will likely exceed their normal annual fishing. But, for those whose normal activity exceeds it by a significant margin, they can instead apply for a days at sea allocation based on their historic track record. Vessels can then get more days at sea on top of their basic allocation by taking up the Conservation Credits options.
“We have also made special arrangements for new vessels, building in flexibility to the workings of the system to seek to offer a higher allocation of days.”