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Discards Continue As Regulations Go Unchanged

SCOTLAND, UK - The failure of an attempt via the European Parliament to put an end to unworkable emergency fisheries regulations for the West coast of Scotland highlights the urgent need for greater regional control of our fisheries, says Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermens Federation.

“The objective of the ‘emergency’ management measures that have been in place since 2009 were stock conservation, but in practice, they are actually the source of discarding,” he says.

The background to the measures can be traced back to 2008 when a European Commission proposal to rewrite the existing technical conservation measures was made. Voluminous and complex, the proposal failed to achieve agreement before the arrival of the new legislative procedure of co-decision with the European Parliament.

As a result, emergency management measures were introduced for the West coast, which included the 30% cod/haddock/whiting catch composition rule, as well as closing down the queen scallop and squid fisheries by default. The Commission’s intention is to continue with the current arrangements until CFP reform in 2013.

However, there has recently a glimmer of hope with intense lobbying by the SFF, supported by a number of Scottish, UK and other MEPs, resulting in a bid to try and get an amendment to the rules pushed through at a recent European Parliament Plenary session on the 4-8 April. The amendment did succeed in being tabled but disappointingly, fell at the last hurdle.

Mr Armstrong said: “In spite of the odds, we decided that we had to chase the matter, on behalf of the industry, right to the end. Also, it is essential that the Federation builds the necessary relationships and knowledge of process in the European Parliament to cope with the co-decision making process, which will be dealing very soon with CFP Reform. Lobbying visits to the European Parliament were made in March to help our campaign.

"Since a more complex amendment had previously failed and was certain to do so again, we decided that the only realistic goal was to take haddock from the catch composition rule and transfer it into the Long Term Management Plan. Unfortunately, although the amendment made it through to the voting process, it failed at the last hurdle with the Parliament failing to support it.

“The SFF would like to thank in particular Struan Stevenson MEP, who strongly supported and facilitated the bid. Voting support came from Scottish MEPs Ian Hudghton, Catherine Stihler and George Lyon. Dianne Dodds from Northern Ireland greatly helped in both the lobbying and in the vote, and support was given by English MEPs Chris Davies and Nigel Farage and from Ireland, by ex-Fisheries Minister Pat the Cope Gallagher. However, in a vote in the plenary session of the European Parliament, it was not enough. It was particularly unfortunate that we didn’t receive the full support of the Scottish Government in our campaign.

“These totally unwarranted measures unfairly preclude our fishermen from diversifying into the sustainable harvesting of other species such as squid and queen scallops, and inevitably result in the discarding of valuable fish.

“This sorry episode only serves to underline the urgent need for greater regional control of our fisheries where sensible measures can be introduced to ensure sustainable fishing. The current situation is only going to result in continuing hardship for our west coast fleet and the discarding of good quality haddock for which quota is held.”

the Fish Site Editor

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