Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has reacted to a Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA) briefing about the state of North Sea cod stocks, demanding that fishermen are put at the heart of decision-making.
The SFA produced the paper after the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (Ices) advised that severe quota cuts had to be considered.
Last week the associations chief executive, Simon Collins, urged calm management rather than “blinkered dogmatism”. He dismissed as “risible” any suggestion that cod stocks were threatened or endangered.
Mr Collins has been backed by Mr Carmichael.
The MP said: “Shetland fishermen have always understood that sustainable fishing practices are necessary if there is to be an industry for future generations.
“I have been hugely encouraged by the increasing collaboration between fishermen and scientists in recent years. Fishermen in the Northern Isles are not ideological about quotas. They have a strong interest in keeping stocks sustainable.
“We know that fishing quotas are often determined by measurements of the “size” of stocks, but size doesn’t always tell the whole picture. There are different realities in the sea. It is essential that fishermen be at the heart of decision-making, working in partnership with scientists and policymakers. That is exactly why reports like these are important in order to inform the discussion.
“This briefing shows the effort and goodwill the SFA and Scottish fishermen are putting into the policy debate. The Government and international bodies like the ICES should listen closely and make meaningful changes to the decision-making process.”
Mr Carmichael later gave his opinion of the risk to fishermen of a no-deal Brexit.
Speaking after Scottish Seafood Association chief executive Jimmy Buchan told the Press & Journal that a no-deal could “break the back” of the industry, Mr Carmichael said the UK government should be embarrassed about the possibility of no-deal occurring.
“This intervention, after the release of the Yellowhammer documents, shows the mounting concern about the consequences that local fishermen face from a no-deal Brexit. The government’s own analysis shows the risks to Scottish fishing from port blockades, territorial disputes and trade barriers. There is a serious possibility of devastating damage to our fishing industry.
“Three years ago, the catching sector was enthusiastic about potential advantages they saw in Brexit, to challenge imbalances in fisheries policy. That senior figures are speaking out now shows just how badly the government is failing to convince Scottish fishermen that they have any real solution for the chaos of a no-deal Brexit.”