Crucial talks on next year’s fishing quotas began in Brussels today with the future of the North East Atlantic mackerel fishery and potential cuts to white fish top of the agenda.
Fishermen met EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki prior to the resumption of the fisheries council on Wednesday to highlight their fears over Icelandic and Faroese access to the mackerel fishery.
Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association chief executive Ian Gatt said that with science confirming the north-east Atlantic mackerel stock is in robust health the “EU must not be pressurised into rushing into a deal”, and that any agreement must not compromise the interests of the UK and EU fleets who had been “sustainably harvesting mackerel within a management plan”.
He added: “We will remind the Commissioner that the negotiating strategy should be pursued jointly with our colleagues in Norway, and that under no circumstances should any agreement contain the provision that would enable Iceland to fish for mackerel off the Scottish coast.
“We will also be telling her of the importance of mackerel to the UK and other parts of the EU, which supports a large number of jobs in the processing and associated onshore industries. It would be a tragedy if some of these traditional jobs were lost so as to reward others for their irresponsible behaviour.”
The EU and Norway are in dispute with Iceland and the Faroese following their move four years ago to increase their mackerel quotas in breach of the international management plan.
Scottish Fisheries Minister Richard Lochhead warned that cuts of 15 per cent on whiting and nine per cent on cod were likely to be made and would threaten an increase in discards while the EU is moving towards a ban on discarding fish.
His comments followed the latest scientific advice from the International Council of the Sea (ICES).
He added that sustainable fisheries were vital to the future success of the fishing industry and, while the North Sea cod stock was not fully recovered, it had more than doubled in the last five years and fishing rates were now the lowest observed since assessments began in the 1960s.
He said: “The Scottish Government, our fishing industry and consumers all want to see an end to discards. This latest advice highlights the complexities of managing mixed fisheries. Clearly, we will be pushing hard to find a sensible course of action while the cod stock is recovering to avoid a position that increases discards, as would likely result if the quota were to be set in line with the management plan – this would be a nine per cent cut.”
“We will now consider our options in more detail as we prepare to negotiate the best deal for Scotland’s fishermen while of course ensuring stocks are protected for the future.”