Mackerel fishing leaders have called on UK Fisheries Minister George Eustace to ensure a level playing field for all fishermen when the pelagic discards ban is introduced next year.
Mr Eustace was told during a visit to Fraserburgh that any exemptions from control measures for other EU vessels, or third-party trawlers would “make a mockery” of the system.
The warning stems from a long held feeling among British fishermen that they are singled out for stringent treatment from the authorities while foreign vessels go unregulated.
Scottish Pelagic Fishermen Association (SPFA) representatives met Mr Eustice aboard the 64m pelagic vessel Forever Grateful on Thursday (24 July). The main discussion was the implementation of the pelagic discard ban and specifically how control and monitoring measures are to be applied.
SPFA chief executive Ian Gatt said later: “Control and enforcement is one of the key cornerstones of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) which needs to be applied in a uniform manner across the Member States – this simply didn’t happen under the old CFP.
“It’s imperative this is rectified under the current CFP. Scottish pelagic fishermen are not alone in insisting that control legislation is designed and implemented in a way that provides confidence that all Member States and third country vessels fishing in EU waters are operating under the same rules.
“This is also clearly spelt out in the Pelagic Advisory Council CFP recommendations document. The coming months will be a litmus test for the new CFP. Regionalisation is hailed as the new dawn, let’s hope it doesn’t fall at the first hurdle which will be the case if control measures are not harmonised within and across marine regions.
“The SPFA underlined the vital importance of this matter to Mr Eustice and reminded him that this particular issue is reserved to the UK government and has to be delivered. We will not accept a situation where our fleet is bound by stringent control measures, whether that be CCTV or observers and other Member States and third country vessels like Norwegian and Faroese are exempted. This would make a complete mockery of the system.”