Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead recognised that "for once"
Scottish fishermen were getting a good deal out of the EU
Scottish News: Good news for Scottish fishermen ‘for once’
by Cameron Ings-hodgson
Scottish fishermen have welcomed the outcome of talks in Brussels on EU fish conservation measures.
The industry had faced the threat of further automatic cuts to North Sea quotas which would have been in line with the controversial 2008 cod stock recovery plan. The move it was argued was unnecessary due to evidence of a recent recovery of cod stocks and the evidence has led to EU ministers voting against the automatic cut in fishing quotas.
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Scottish Fishermen’s Federation’s chief executive, Bertie Armstrong, said: “We were facing the very real danger of the decision-making being caught in legal red tape that would have caused immense economic hardship and done nothing to aid fish stock conservation and sustainable harvesting.”
"Fishing effort in Scotland has been slashed by almost 70 percent over the last 10 years and we were quite simply at a stage where the fleet could not sustain any more cuts.”
The agreement, reached after three days of talks, has increased catch levels for some white fish stocks off of the west coast of Scotland, the English Channel and Irish Sea - securing increased quotas of 18 percent for West Coast nephrops, 20 percent for West Coast herring and while there will be a reduction in West Coast haddock quotas of 30 percent, this follows a 200% increase which was agreed last year.
The scale of cuts proposed by the European Commission for other stocks was also reduced.
Cod catch caps for next year remain uncertain ahead of talks with Norway in January despite the vote against automatic cuts, and so cod quotas for 2013 could still potentially be reduced.
Plans to further reduce the number of fishing days at sea were resisted by EU ministers including Scottish and Irish ministers who feared an increase in the number of fish thrown overboard and the loss of hundreds of jobs, according to a UPI report.
Richard Lochhead, Scottish Environment Secretary, said: "For once our fishermen can go into 2013, into the New Year, and not face these automatic cuts which are just part of the plan - not necessarily right for the fishing stocks or right for the fishing industry in Scottish circumstances.”
"So that's why I think they're just breathing a huge sigh of relief because these talks have actually paid off for once."
The UK fisheries minister, Richard Benyon, said: "This has been my third year attending these frustrating negotiations and I am delighted that we were able to secure the best possible deal for the UK fishing industry.”
"The current Cod Recovery Plan has failed to deliver. It was one of my priorities to ensure that days at sea for fishermen would remain the same next year and that is exactly what has been achieved."
“That is why this change is a major step forward as it will allow cod quota and the amount of time fishermen can spend at sea to be based on solid scientific evidence rather than an out-of-date plan."
MEPs in the fisheries committee also voted to halt overfishing by removing discards, where fish that exceed quota, or are too young or unmarketable, are tossed overboard, dead. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) around 60 percent of fish caught by European fishing vessels are dumped.
The Finnish liberal MEP Nils Torvalds said: “It cannot be acceptable any longer to throw perfectly edible fish overboard, dead. But an obligation to land all catches must not penalize fishermen,”
Under the proposals, fishing vessels would be required to land all catches from 2014 onwards.
Commenting, SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson, whose constituency is home to Scotland’s two largest fishing ports said:
“I am delighted that the threat of cuts to days at sea has been lifted and initial quota negotiations have seen largely positive outcomes.”
“It seems fair to say that the negotiations this year have seen notable successes for the Scottish industry and that is extremely welcome.”
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When the fishing industry and Scottish MPs wakened up to what the Tory Government was doing, and massive protests started, Heath presented them with a fair accompli. He ordered the chief negotiator in Brussels, Sir Con O’Neil, to “swallow the lot and swallow it now”, in O’Neil’s words.
Heath lied to Scotland and he lied to the House of Commons as well as suppressing vital information that ought to have been the subject of negotiations with the fishing industry.
The conspiracy of silence was revealed by the notorious minute by D.K. Rowand in the Scottish Office archives, advocating that no explanations should be made public because “in the wider context” the Scottish fishing industry “must be regarded as expendable”.
Caught between the poles of Brussels intrigue and London treachery, Scotland has suffered up to 100,000 job losses at sea and on land, the destruction of two thirds of its offshore fleet, with somewhere between a quarter and a third of a million “expendable” people, including dependents, and annual losses to the Scottish economy due to the CFP’s destruction of wealth creation capacity are now approaching £2,000 million – I repeat, every year! The whole thing is a vile attack on the welfare of a nation of only 5 million people.
The EU has not the slightest intention of transferring any significant power of decision away from Brussels. The present sham concessions are being taken only because the principal actors are aware that the loss of Scotland to EFTA would kill the EU fishing policy overnight, and there are too many vested interests for that to be allowed. The minute the threat of independence for Scotland is over, we will be back to stage one, and EU law will apply up to the high-water mark on our beaches.
This is not a time for complacency, as appears to be the case with the SNP. There will be no security for Scotland’s fishing industry, or for its oil, gas and other mineral resources, until we get out of the CFP, and since that means getting out of the EU and transferring to the EFTA side of the European Economic Area, then so be it.