EU Fish Council set to decide 2011 catch

Negotiations to decide upon the final catching opportunity of the Scottish fishing fleet in 2011 got underway in Brussels on Monday 13 December. The majority of quotas have already been set at previous international talks but there will still be room to manoeuvre at the EU Fish Council to get a better deal on some key fish stocks.

Amongst those of significance for the Scots whitefish fleet is monkfish – which is in line for a 15% cut. The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation will be arguing strongly that the cut is unjustified and should be reversed.

Headline figures for 2011 include proposed cuts for prawns (nephrops) – a mainstay species for the Scottish fleet – of 8% cut for the North Sea and 15% on the west coast of Scotland. West coast haddock and cod are facing large cuts, but for whiting and herring in the North Sea a 15% and 21% increase respectively has been agreed.

North Sea haddock is in line for a 5% cut with cod being reduced by 20%. There will be the provision for fishermen to catch extra cod equal to 12% of the reduced total allowable catch (TAC) if they participate in the trial ‘catch quota’ scheme, where boats land all the cod they catch.

The completion of recent negotiations between the EU and Norway saw an expansion of this catch quota scheme for cod in the North Sea to enable more Scottish fishermen to participate. The scheme – often dubbed ‘catch less, land more’ - allows fishermen to land all the cod they catch until the quota is taken up and is designed to reduce discards.

According to Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, once the Fish Council has concluded on Tuesday 14 December, the onus will be on both fishermen and the Scottish government to try and find ways to tailor the regulations to meet the complex environment of mixed fisheries that the fishing fleet operates in.

“As the Scottish Government recently stated, catch quotas do not provide the full answer to the problems facing the Scottish fishing fleet, but they do have a role to play,” he said.

“However, for catch quotas to provide real and much wider benefit, there needs to be an adjustment in the management regulations so as to take into account the fishing environment that boats work in.

“Such rule changes must begin with successful innovation at national level followed by strong political pressure for change. We have in Scotland seen much development for which we have yet to reap a reward in terms of more effective regulation. It has never been more necessary for the fishing industry and government to work together to formulate and deliver management regulations that provide a better fit for the operational conditions. This work must begin as soon as we have the final output from the December Fish Council meeting – let us make that the hallmark of a successful 2011.”

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