A Scottish government minister has expressed his disappointment with an agreement between Norway and the EU, which would see a significant cut to next year’s North Sea cod quota.
Fisheries secretary Fergus Ewing labelled the outcome of fishery negotiation talks ‘disappointing’, adding that it would be ‘very challenging for Scottish fishing businesses’.
A significant 50% cut in the North Sea cod quota for 2020 has been agreed, following scientific advice on declining numbers.
Talks between Norway and the EU concluded after a third round in Brussels.
There will also be further quota reductions in 2020 for saithe (-15%) and whiting (-13%), but increases in haddock (23%) and plaice (17%) and a rollover (0%) for herring.
They also agreed on seasonal closures to protect North Sea cod while spawning in the first quarter of the year and a new EU/Norway working group that will develop further management measures in early 2020 to reduce catches of cod to promote stock recovery.
The Scottish government said it will work on ways to make these reductions in quotas easier to manage.
Mr Ewing said: “This year’s talks have taken place against some difficult scientific advice – particularly for North Sea cod. While I welcome an agreement, the outcome is disappointing.
“A cut of this size will be very challenging for Scottish fishing businesses. We recognise the need to manage fish stocks sustainably, necessitating a substantial reduction, but it is regrettable that once again the main burden has fallen on Scotland. We have significant concerns about a methodology that recognises poor cod stocks in the Southern North Sea, but seems to disregard much healthier numbers in Northern waters. We will press for action to address this.
“The Scottish Government will do everything we can to support the industry. Our attention now turns to next week’s December council negotiations in Brussels – potentially our last as a member of the EU. It is clear that Brexit considerations are playing a role in this year’s negotiations, with Scotland’s interests being compromised by being part of the member state which is choosing to walk away, but I will continue to do all I can to champion the interests of our fishing industry.”