Talks between the European Union and Norway on total allowable catches and other arrangements for the fishing of North Sea stocks such as cod and haddock have broken down without agreement.
The impasse in discussions that normally result in agreement before the annual December fisheries council is over the right of the Norwegians to fish for mackerel in EU waters. It is understood the talks will not now resume until the new year.
Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said failure to reach agreement after five weeks of talks would add further difficulty and complications to the fisheries management arrangements the Scottish fleet will face in 2010.
With the fisheries council due to be held next week, he said, the failure to reach agreement with Norway brings further uncertainty to an already difficult situation.
Mr Armstrong said: “At this stage it is too early to assess what the breakdown in these talks will mean for Scottish fishermen in 2010 and it is possible that the current arrangements will be rolled over into next year.
“However, the failure in these negotiations does add extra uncertainty in what is already a very difficult situation for Scottish fishermen. It is now more vital than ever that a fair and sensible arrangement is agreed at next week’s … council meeting.”
Scottish fisheries minister Richard Lochhead said: “We are entering a crucial phase for Scotland’s fishing communities and fish stocks. Next week promises to be another extremely tough round of negotiations set against a very challenging economic backdrop.
“Efforts to rebuild cod stocks are likely to dominate. The Cod Recovery Plan has been difficult for Scottish fishermen and we continue to seek changes to the way the plan is implemented to allow our fleet to buy back days at sea in exchange for its trailblazing approach to conservation.
“If we can find a way of letting our fishermen land more of what they catch while reducing their overall fishing effort, we can reduce discards, reward our fleet and help conserve stocks.”