The European Council of Fisheries Ministers is today considering a proposal to allow banking of up to 30 per cent of this year’s hugely increased mackerel quota following a trade embargo imposed by Russia.
The Russian ban on EU food imports, linked to the Ukraine crisis, means about 20 per cent of the international mackerel market is off limits to Scottish processors. Mackerel is Scottish food producers’ single biggest loss from the Russian sanction.
Outgoing Fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki, agreed to a request by Scottish Fisheries Minister Richard Lochhead to put the mackerel proposal on the table at today’s meeting. He is travelling to Luxembourg to discuss other fishing issues with the commissioner.
The commission this year agreed a colossal mackerel total allowable catch for the North East Atlantic of 1.24 million tonnes, comfortably above the temporary advice of 890,000 tonnes issued by scientists last October.
The unprecedented quota was seen in Shetland as nothing but a political move to lure Faroe and Iceland into the international framework of fisheries management – allowing them to continue fishing at their self-declared level without eating into the quotas of Norway and the EU.
Mr Lochhead said: “I am pleased that the impact of the Russian sanction on the fishing industry will be discussed at tomorrow’s council and I welcome commissioner Damanaki’s recommendation that up to 30 per cent of some of this year’s quota should be banked.
“Scotland’s processors export up to 20 per cent of the mackerel they process directly to Russia and so are taking a direct hit – but there is also an indirect impact, due to the knock-on product displacement across the whole of Europe. An agreement to bank appropriate fish quotas would help to minimise the impact of the ban. While we may not use all the extra banking, having this flexibility would be helpful to the fleet.”
He added that Scotland’s successful pelagic fishing industry was used to adapting to changes in the market and had “great experience” exporting to a wide range of markets. “We acted very quickly to put a plan in place to help them adapt to this latest challenge. But the discussions at council are extremely important to help us develop a Europe-wide picture,” added Mr Lochhead.
“I am also looking forward to meeting directly with commissioner Damanaki where I will be discussing both the trade ban and wider issues affecting Scotland’s fishing industry with her directly.”