Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has raised complaints from frustrated Shetland fishermen during a scathing attack on the UK government’s post-Brexit dealings with the industry.
Mr Carmichael, who was chairing this morning’s Westminster debate on fisheries management, said he had heard from fishermen from across the UK and was “astounded” by the volume and content of the correspondences.
He said they all had one message: “The deal struck by the Prime Minister on Christmas Eve is not what we were promised and six months in into its first year is causing massive difficulties.”
Quoting the skipper of a 22 metre Shetland trawler, he added: “We have a ridiculously small cod quota and we find it impossible to avoid cod.
“There is more cod around Shetland right now than at any time in living memory but our quota is miniscule.
“It is said by skippers recently that you can catch your year’s quota in one day.”
With plans to cut cod quotas again next year, Mr Carmichael questioned why the UK government was still using the EU’s “broken quota system” when we are now an “independent coastal state”.
Quoting another Shetland fisherman, named as Magnus, 19, from Whalsay, Mr Carmichael went on to say: “Why is the fishing industry having to fight their own government for survival.
“Why do their advisory boards have no qualified fishermen of ex fishermen or fish processors.
“Why are they allowing uncontrolled foreign fishing vessels in our waters.”
Mr Carmichael went on to highlight the “catastrophic gridlock” at the start of the year which meant exporters were unable to get fish to market.
He said one Shetland businesses was facing a loss of £50,000 due to export delays.
While the fisheries minister pledged to help those affected through compensation schemes, Mr Carmichael said these had also failed many.
He said the business facing a £50,000 loss sought to minimise the financial hit by selling cheaply to domestic markets.
Having done so, however, he found he was ineligible for the compensation.
Mr Carmichael said that the minister should have warned businesses they “would have to leave their fish to rot” if that is how the compensation would be awarded.
The Orkney and Shetland MP also raised concerns about the dangerous behaviour of foreign vessels in UK waters, noting two near misses involving Shetland vessels.
He said there was also a “massive disparity” between the authorities’ approach to UK boats compared with French and Spanish fleets “who are able to stroll about their business virtually unmolested”.