The fishing industry is to receive a fresh round of European grants worth more than £12 million to reduce discards and improve safety and support for the Scottish fleet.
Fisheries minister Richard Lochhead will announce shortly details of the specific projects that will benefit from the money.
In a speech last night to the Scottish Fisheremen’s Federation dinner, Mr Lochhead said that with negotiations due to start on reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), 2012 would be a crucial year for the industry.
He said: “We must take advantage of the plethora of opportunities that lie ahead of us in 2012 and maximise the benefits to Scotland in what could be a truly pivotal year for our fishing industry.
“We must ensure we get the best deal we can for Scotland’s fishermen in the CFP negotiations. The CFP has decimated our fishing communities, destroyed jobs and failed our stocks. So we must make the most of the opportunity we have now. We must turn something that has been wrong and badly damaging for Scotland’s fishermen for so many years into something positive that could provide real and fair benefits in the years ahead.
“To make it fair we must ensure the science is listened to. It is not fair or reasonable that decisions to impose large reductions on fishing quotas were taken based on scientific advice and yet when that same advice is now advocating a large increase in quotas it seems to be ignored.
“Our fishermen have played by the rules to protect and conserve our fish stocks at huge costs to themselves. It is only right they now start to reap some of the benefits that previous pain should now allow.”
Commenting on the European grants, Mr Lochhead said: “I am delighted to announce more than £12 million of funding for our fishing communities and look forward to unveiling details of the specific projects which will benefit shortly.
“We have continued to strongly support sea fisheries and the money will help to ensure that the infrastructure which supports the fleet is fit for purpose, aid safety training, gear trials to reduce discards and add value to the fisheries supply chain through improved processing, training and marketing. It will also provide a welcome economic boost to our fishing communities.”
At the same dinner Ross Dougal, vice-president of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said fishermen had a huge amount to offer the scientific community by providing better catch data and information on fish stocks.
“We must seize the opportunity to provide the data for more real-time science even if on occasion this leads to quota reduction,” he said.
“The health of our stocks and the sustainability of our fisheries is of fundamental importance to fishermen and it is essential that we forge even closer relationships with scientists so as to have the most accurate information flow as possible. If used properly, such information will lead to development of much more effective management plans for our fisheries.”
Turning to the ongoing deadlock with Iceland and the Faroes over mackerel catches, Mr Dougal said both countries must now both move to seek a resolution at talks later this month before irreparable harm is done to the precious mackerel stock.
“The decisions by Iceland and the Faroes to significantly increase already grossly over-inflated unilateral quotas is the height of irresponsibility and could do real damage to a stock that has been sustainably harvested and carefully looked after by the Scottish fleet.
“It is vital for the future of the Scottish mackerel sector that there is restoration of sensible and responsible mackerel management arrangements in the north-east Atlantic so as to secure the long-term sustainable future of the stock. However, whilst reaching a deal is important, it must not be done so at any cost and it needs to ensure that Scotland’s traditional mackerel catching rights are not compromised.”