Alistair Carmichael is calling for an “urgent review” of the fishing deal which has freed up quota for Faroese fishing boats in EU waters.
Speaking in a House of Commons debate on fishing, the isles MP urged the UK and Scottish governments to push for reform of the “unbalanced” EU-Faroe agreement.
“There is grave concern in the pelagic industry about the way in which the 2014 deal between the EU and the Faroe Islands is being allowed to operate.
“The deal was met with substantial scepticism in my constituency and by the pelagic fleet in Shetland, in particular. They have gone along with it and have done their best to make it work, but with every week and month that passes it becomes more apparent that the deal requires urgent review.
“The recent Seafish study shows that this year the Faroese have over-caught their entitlement of mackerel by 1,400 tonnes, but there have been no boats catching mackerel or blue whiting in the Faroese waters.
Surely, it is possible to do this without threatening the access of EU vessels to Faroese waters.
“The Faroese were given an inch in 2014, since which time they have taken a mile. The deal looks more and more unbalanced with every day that passes. It requires urgent attention from Britain and the EU.”
Mr Carmichael also called for greater flexibility in the management of the demersal discard ban which is due to come into effect on 1st January.
“The real difficulty is that until we have the discard ban, we will not know exactly what we are dealing with, in terms of stocks and the infrastructure that will be needed. However, all the indications are that it will be substantial.
“The indication is that the approach of the fisheries department in Edinburgh is too prescriptive and does not allow the flexibility that is needed.”
Referring to a recent report from Seafish, Mr Carmichael said: “It should concern every representative of a fishing community. The worst-case scenario outlined in the report is that in 2019…the fleet segments in Scotland would catch and land 51 per cent (£99.9 million) of the value of the total allowable catch. Essentially, that would leave 49 per cent of the catch unaccounted for, uncaught and unlanded. No fishing fleet can cope with a cut of that significance.
“That is the worst-case scenario and worst-case scenarios need not happen, but it is a warning. That is what the Scottish fishing fleets face at the moment. Unless we have the necessary flexibility, something that was brought in with good intentions could have serious and profound unintended consequences.”
Commenting afterwards, Mr Carmichael said he was pleased to have the opportunity to raise concerns from fishermen.
He hoped the Fisheries Minister and his counterpart in the Scottish government would act on this in negotiations with EU partners.