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Concern over Proposed Fish Cuts

04 December 2012

SCOTLAND, UK - Europe cannot be allowed to hit Scottish fishermen with three devastating cuts that are being driven by EU lawyers - rather than fish science.

That was the message from Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead today, as he met with UK Fishing Minister Richard Benyon in Brussels at the AgriFish Council, as critical talks on fishing opportunities in 2013 – always expected to deliver a mixed bag for Scotland - move in to the final stages.

Mr Lochhead made clear that proposals for a cut in days at sea (fishing effort) under the Cod Recovery Plan, a reduction in the North Sea cod quota and a unilateral cut to the EU's share of the mackerel quota are all unacceptable. He emphasised that these are all being driven by legal considerations rather than fisheries conservation, with two of the proposed cuts due to delayed reviews of failed EU fishery regulations.

Mr Lochhead said: “It’s outrageous that once again Scotland is battling proposed cuts that are on the table for legal reasons rather than what's best for the fishery. Thankfully, a number of countries are joining forces to resist such crazy cuts. And I’ve made clear to Mr Benyon we cannot accept these unjustified proposals and expect full backing from the UK.

"Europe's Fishing Ministers and the European Parliament must not allow ourselves to be tangled in a legal web or we will face a very difficult situation - that has everything to do with legal technicalities and nothing to do with what is best for the stocks or our fishermen.

"The other potential complication is a ridiculous stand off between the European Parliament and Council of Ministers over who has the authority to agree the urgently needed changes.

"Too often, we all agree on the direction of travel but EU lawyers tell us the broken CFP is a roadblock. This is a million miles from what the Scottish fishing industry wants to hear, especially when many stocks are sustainably fished and cod is on the road to recovery.

"I have consistently said we should be guided both by robust scientific advice and by natural justice when deciding fishing opportunities – these proposals fail on both counts.

“The automatic cuts to days at sea are deeply flawed on scientific and fisheries grounds. Indeed, the science points to increases in cod, which fishermen are finding more and more difficult to avoid. That's why I’m pressing for catch limits to remain the same next year.

“On mackerel, the over-fishing by Iceland and the Faroes means the recommendation from ICES is for a quota to fall next year. Meanwhile both of these countries are still refusing to join an international agreement that would see the stocks manage sustainably.

“While we understand the need to follow the ICES advice, bizarrely the Commission want the EU - including Scotland as the largest quota holder - to suffer a further cut to their share of the catch, essentially rewarding Iceland and Faroes for their irresponsible practices.

"To make matters worse, the Commission are now trying to make this a condition of introducing sanctions against non-compliant countries! Rather than rewarding bad behaviour we should be holding to account those who do not follow the rules.”

TheFishSite News Desk



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