Fears over impact of discard ban

The Fisheries Council talks to finalise catching opportunity for 2015 concluded in Brussels on Tuesday.

The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) said that the agreement on quotas brings some stability for the Scottish fleet, but huge fears remain over the potential impact of the discard ban.

The agreement has resulted in increases for West coast haddock (+14%), North Sea prawns (+15%), monkfish (+20%) and megrim (+ 1%), with a drop for West coast prawns (- 7%) and West coast herring (-19%). Quotas for other key stocks had been agreed earlier in the month with increases for North Sea cod and haddock and falls for North Sea saithe and whiting.

Bertie Armstrong, SFF chief executive, said: “With the majority of stocks of interest to Scottish fishermen either in good health or moving in the right direction, the quotas agreed today deliver an element of short-term stability for much of the Scottish fleet. It is particularly pleasing that for 2015 there will be more catching opportunity for haddock, monkfish, North Sea prawns and North Sea cod. This is helpful for the Scottish fleet and our thanks go to Scottish fishing minister Richard Lochhead and his negotiating team.”

However, the SFF says that the biggest challenge now facing the industry will be the implementation of the discard ban, or landing obligation as it is known. It will come into operation for mackerel and herring fishers on 1 January 2015, with the demersal fleet following the year after. The scheme means that fishermen will have to land all the fish they catch, which will be counted against their quota.

Mr Armstrong said: “Fishermen hate having to discard and throw perfectly good fish over the side, but we have real fears that the landing obligation will be implemented in a way that will lead to unnecessary damage to the industry. Unbelievably, the present regulations which force fishermen to discard fish – such as the ‘minimum landing size’ rules - remain in force and there is no legal certainty over whether these regulations or the new ones will prevail.

“This is well-recognised by the UK and Scottish Governments, who will issue guidance, but the fact remains that the introduction of a revolution in fisheries management has no proper legal foundation. This inevitably makes the industry deeply nervous. It is essential that this is corrected over the coming months – and certainly before the introduction in 2016 of the discard ban for complex mixed fisheries. The industry and Scottish Government have agreed that this is a top priority for 2015.”

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