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Automatic Fishing Cuts Will Devastate Fleet

SCOTLAND, UK - Following the release of the latest scientific advice on the status of fish stocks, the Scottish Fishermens Federation is urging for the adoption of a commonsense approach to fisheries management next year and recognition given to the huge conservation efforts made by the Scottish fleet.

The annual analysis of one stock – North Sea Cod – has automatic consequences that will trigger changes in the number of days that fishing vessels can spend at sea.

The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) has assessed North Sea cod to have a spawning stock biomass (the volume of fish) that has increased since 2006 but which is still just short of the range desired.

The latest ICES advice states the amount of cod taken out of the sea (fishing mortality) has also declined over the period but again it may not be at the desired level. Scientists state that their conclusions are uncertain and are affected by incomplete information – for example required data on discards has not been received from French, Belgian and Dutch fisheries.

If the advice is not challenged, the automatic result will be a further cut in days at sea - which sections of the Scottish fleet will be simply unable to cope with.

The uncertainty of the analysis aligns with reports from experienced fishermen that the abundance of fish found on the grounds simply does not match the conclusions drawn from ICES. Also, the huge steps taken by the Scottish fleet to reduce fishing effort, combined with the development and use of selective gear and widespread fishing area closures means that the scientific analysis demands further careful examination, taking into account information from fishermen.

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, says: “Scientists themselves say that this advice is based on uncertain data. It is entirely at odds with the experience of fishermen at sea and their own assessment of change.

“This uncertainly expressed by the scientists in the data is wholeheartedly shared by the fishing industry. An automatic reaction to cut fishing effort based on uncertain data must be urgently reviewed.

“Initial contact on this issue with the Scottish Government indicates a shared view that there needs to be an immediate analysis of the current situation taking into account the unique efforts and sacrifices that have been made by the Scottish fleet in recent years to conserve cod and other stocks, which in turn can be presented to the EC, resulting in the proposal for more realistic and sensible management measures for 2011.”

the Fish Site Editor

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