The Conservative fisheries spokesman at the European Parliament has challenged Scottish fisheries minister Richard Lochhead to help fishermen make the looming discards ban workable.
Following a visit to Peterhead of Dutch MEP Peter van Dalen and the managing director of pan-European Fishing body Europeche, Kathryn Stack, Ian Duncan said that Mr Lochhead had “ignored” his requests to support fishermen.
Mr van Dalen said the Dutch government was trying to introduce as much flexibility as possible to the landing obligation scheme, which is up to national governments to implement, and he called on the Scottish Parliament to do likewise.
The next phase of the discard ban will require fishermen to land all their catch of plaice and haddock from 1st January, with cod and other species being included in 2017.
Mr Duncan has repeatedly called upon the Scottish government to support fishermen with the storing, icing and transport of catch.
Mr Duncan said: “For many months now Richard Lochhead has ignored my requests to support fishermen.
“I once again repeat my call to the cabinet secretary to back fishermen through this challenging adjustment. The EU has set the minimum that the Scottish government has to do, but not the ceiling.
“Those on the pier head in Peterhead are preparing well and it is no wonder that leaders from across Europe are keen to learn from the approach of Scottish fishermen.
“With Scottish government support they can make the discard ban work, but Mr Lochhead needs to act now.”
Mr Duncan had been in Urk, the Netherland’s largest white fish port with Mr van Dalen to compare and contrast how the industry on the continent is preparing for the discard ban.
“It is encouraging to see how fishermen across the North Sea are working together to share best practices and solutions, even with government leadership lacking,” he added.
Mr van Dalen said fishermen in the North Sea were faced with similar challenges regarding the discard ban.
“That’s why I wanted to come here and learn from Scottish fishermen and, indeed, the Dutch fishermen that are operating from this port about their concerns and possible solutions,” he said.
“The Dutch government is actively looking for maximum flexibility in the implementation of the discard ban, because they realize the impact it will have on fishermen. I urge the Scottish Parliament to do the same.”
Ms Stack, whose organisation represents fishermen throughout the EU, said: “This has been an extremely useful visit with the sector strongly highlighting the main fears over the fallout of Common Fisheries Policy reform including, of course, the discard ban and the very real gap between the fishermen’s experience of fish stocks compared with the scientific assessment and the subsequent draconian management regimes that are then imposed.”
Ms Stack said all the technical rules would be up for review very shortly “which will be another testing process for the sector and we are just a couple of months away from crucial decisions on quotas.
“Given that the European Commission’s recent reporting on the state of EU fish stocks was overwhelmingly positive, it is essential that these positive trends are translated into positive quotas which will provide new and improved jobs and business opportunities.
“Abundant North Sea stocks such as northern hake, cod and plaice have been identified as success stories. In fact, for demersal stocks in the North Sea, Celtic Sea and West of Scotland, fishing mortality rates are among the lowest levels registered.
“We all want to see healthy stocks at abundant levels and now need decision-makers reach a fair and realistic agreement.”