Calls are being made for access arrangements for Faroese fishermen, which allows boats from Faroe to catch mackerel in Scottish waters, to be reduced.Under a bilateral deal negotiated last year between Faroe and the EU, a quota exchange agreement and an access arrangement was finalised. The access part of the deal enables boats from Faroe to catch some of their own mackerel and blue whiting quota in EU waters rather than Faroese fishing grounds.
In return, EU vessels can catch some of their quota for the two species in Faroese waters.
However, an economic report on the access arrangement, just published by Seafish, claims the UK received no benefit last year, as its vessels did not catch any mackerel and only 1,400 tonnes of blue whiting from Faroese waters.
Conversely, the Faroese caught 93 per cent of their mackerel and blue whiting permitted from EU waters, with an estimated catch value of £42.1 million.
The quota exchange deal is now up for its annual negotiation and the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association and Scottish Pelagic Processors’ Association are calling for the EC and the UK governments to adopt a strong stance to ensure a more equitable agreement is reached.
Chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, Ian Gatt, said: “We are not against every part of the overall agreement, especially since its enables some Scottish whitefish boats to access quota held by the Faroese. It is also desirable to work within international quota arrangements rather than have autonomous quota setting.
“However, the part of the agreement that is causing us huge concern is the access arrangement for mackerel. This has given Faroe the opportunity to catch over £40m worth of high-quality mackerel – primarily from within Scottish waters – which is now being sold into the same markets as our own processing sector, creating marketing difficulties.”
Ian McFadden of the Scottish Pelagic Processors’ Association, said: “The market is already challenging given the Russian/EU trade dispute, the devaluation of the Ukrainian currency and significant currency import problems with Nigeria since the oil economy crash. These are all important markets that are now effectively closed.
“Scottish processors are now in direct competition with the Faroese processing sector as the mackerel caught in Scottish waters has a much higher quality. In essence we have turned their mackerel value from bronze to gold. This access agreement is having a detrimental impact on the profitability of the Scottish processing sector which is a significant direct and indirect employer in Scotland.
“We urge the UK governments and EC to adopt a tough stance in the forthcoming negotiations by removing the mackerel access element from the agreement, especially since the Faroese fleet previously argued for their share in the mackerel quota based on catches of mackerel within their waters.”
Mr Gatt added: “This new economic analysis by Seafish provides a comprehensive assessment of the cost/benefits of the mackerel access arrangement and we thank the organisation for its work in producing it.”
The full Seafish report – Utilisation in 2014 of the Quota Exchange and Licence Entitlement in the EU-Faroe Bilateral Agreement – can be viewed online.