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Scottish Fishermen to Highlight Issues of Concern to UK Fisheries Minister

23 July 2014

SCOTLAND, UK - Scottish fishermen will highlight key issues of concern for the catching sector when they meet with UK Fisheries Minister George Eustice in the ports of Peterhead and Fraserburgh this Thursday (24 July).

Catching opportunities for 2015 and the impact of the forthcoming discards ban will be at the forefront of fishermen’s minds during these discussions.

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said: “This is a timely and welcome visit by the UK Minister to the north-east of Scotland, given that we are now in run-up to the negotiating season which will set quotas for 2015. We are also at the early planning phase of coping with the forthcoming discards ban where there are so many questions that remain to be answered, and which has the potential to devastate our fishing communities if managed badly.”

On catching opportunity for 2015, there is some good news in that key stocks such as North Sea haddock and prawns (langoustines) are set for higher quotas, although reductions are advised for some others, including whiting and saithe. There is real concern among fishermen that North Sea cod will be cut, despite the stock size continuing to increase year-on-year. There are also fears that further effort restrictions (reductions in fishing days) could still be on the table as far as the European Commission is concerned.

Mr Armstrong said: “The problem with cod is that it is caught up in an intractable long term management plan. At the moment, this plan is calling for a 20 per cent quota cut for 2015, but this would do little for stock conservation as it would only lead to increased discarding – something totally at odds with current EC policy.

“However, the independent science shows that a 10 per cent increase in the cod quota would still deliver a 22 per cent increase in the biological size of the stock next year. We will, therefore, be pressing the minister to ensure that the UK adopts a pragmatic position during the forthcoming negotiations, as well as ensuring that effort cuts are kept firmly off the agenda.

“For the forthcoming discards ban, there are huge concerns about the scheme and the way it will be managed. Our fleet will only survive its impact if it is managed sensibly and with a great degree of latitude and flexibility. The ban will affect our mackerel and herring vessels first and it is crucial that all vessels that operate within this international fishery do so under the same regulations to ensure a level playing field for all.”

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