Fisheries deal ‘less than hoped’ for Scottish fleet

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A European fisheries deal has been described as “less than what was hoped” for Scottish vessels.

The annual industry negotiations concluded in Brussels with an agreement which protects the west of the country from overfishing, to ensure a sustainable future.

It also gives room for an “urgent review” of the discard ban as well as securing year-long fishing opportunities for Scottish vessels.

Industry bodies claimed the deal was “challenging but acceptable” and highlighted the need to leave the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

These were the final negotiations before the UK is set to leave the EU.

Mike Park, chief executive of the Scottish White Fish Producers Association, said: “The dynamics of negotiations this year were always going to be complicated given full introduction of the landings obligation and the fact that this is our last fisheries council as a fully-fledged member state.

“The outcome is less than what we hoped but as much as was possible under the circumstances.”

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said: “The talks have been difficult, as they always are, with the additional element this year of politics related to Brexit.

“For the Scottish industry, the central issue has been the inclusion of measures to limit the risk of ‘chokes’ by swapping between member states.

“The Scottish delegation worked long and hard, along with their UK colleagues, to give the best chance of avoiding fleet shutdown during 2019.

Fish stock
Industry bosses want to leave the Common Fisheries Policy (Steve Parsons/PA)

December Council is the culmination of all the year-end negotiations where fishing policies are finalised.

The actual stocks under negotiation included monkfish, west coast saithe, west coast whiting, skates and rays, west coast haddock, plaice, sole and Norway lobster.

Each member state, and then Scotland as part of the UK, is allocated quotas for each stock.

This caps the amount the industry is able to fish for each stock.

The quotas look to balance scientific advice and the need for sustainable fishing, with economic interests.

Fisheries Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “This year’s negotiations in Brussels have been undertaken against an extraordinary political backdrop, adding to the already significant challenge of securing a good deal for Scottish fishing.

“I’m sure that many within our fishing industry will share my disappointment at some of the outcomes agreed, but recognise that the Scottish Government made the best of a bad situation.”

Executive officer of the Shetland Fishermen’s Association Simon Collins added: “Over the years, the CFP has degenerated from a simple failure to a shambles. It is now imposing severe and often highly questionable cuts in key quotas right at the point when an already challenging discard ban comes into full force.

“Despite the abundance of local fish stocks, Shetland’s fishermen and fishing communities are to be punished by distant bureaucrats who are utterly obsessed with unworkable rules.

“The Scottish fisheries minister and his team have been a strong voice for our industry throughout these talks, but the CFP ensures that the European Commission can mismanage fisheries at will and other countries can gang up to harvest more of the natural resources around our shores than we can. This has to end.”

UK Fisheries Minister George Eustice welcomed quota increases for megrim and hake and progress towards achieving sustainable fisheries in a “particularly challenging year of negotiations”.

He added: “These negotiations were the culmination of months of Government-led work with the devolved administrations, industry and environmental NGOs, to secure the best possible deal for the whole of the UK fishing industry.

“We entered into discussions knowing that a good deal needed to carefully balance progress towards sustainability targets, while ensuring that we listen to the scientific evidence on the health of fish stocks and safeguard a profitable future for our hard-working fleet.”

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