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Fish Stocks, Fishing Fleet to be Main Losers in European Power Struggle

05 December 2012

SCOTLAND, UK - A power struggle between the Council of European Fisheries Ministers, the European Commission and the European Parliament over who has supremacy in important fisheries management decisions is threatening the future viability of the Scottish fishing industry, according to the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation.

This struggle for authority is leading to a logjam in the effective decision-making that is necessary to ensure a sensible and sustainable fishery management plan is put in place for next year. The European Parliament, the Council of Ministers and the European Commission are in a complex dispute over who has the ultimate power to decide upon fishing opportunity, in particular relating to effort or days-at-sea. The Scottish – and many other European fishermen – are facing the prospect in further automatic cuts in the number of days they can put to sea, despite the widespread recognition that the fleet cannot sustain any more reductions and that most fish stocks – including cod – are recovering.

The SFF is warning that unless this impasse is resolved in the coming weeks, then the chance to put in place a coherent and sensible fisheries management for next year will be lost.

Bertie Armstrong, SFF chief executive, said: “The most acute symptom of this is in the mismanagement of days at sea - which for 2013 is threatening real and lasting damage to the fleet. The larger part of the Scottish fishing industry is subjected to constraints in days at sea and the governing regulation has for a long time been widely recognised by scientists, fisheries managers and the industry as being fatally flawed.

“Four years of accumulating reductions have done disproportionate and unnecessary damage to the economics of the industry without meeting the sustainability aim of the plan - reductions in discarding and fishing mortality - which incidentally, are being dealt with separately and effectively through in the most part by industry initiatives.

“The problem that the industry faces is that sensible and sustainable fisheries management has fallen victim to this three-way power struggle. There will be a chance to sort this out at the Council of Fisheries Ministers scheduled for 18 - 20 December in Brussels, but only if all parties agree to focus on taking pragmatic decisions on practical matters of sustainable fishing, rather comparing the metaphorical length of their respective legal entitlements."

In recent years the Scottish industry has been spearheading a range of conservation initiatives including technical modifications to fishing gear and real-time area closures that has reduced discards and aided fish stock recovery for a wide range of species.

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