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Do Not Base Fishing Cuts On Uncertain Science


SCOTLAND, UK - With Scottish fishermen having being briefed by Marine Scotland scientists on the latest advice from ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) on the status of fish stocks, the Scottish Fishermens Federation is underlining that it is totally unacceptable for automatic cuts in fishing opportunity to be introduced next year based on uncertain science.

The SFF is offering to do everything it can to contribute to the assessment process, and demands that action be taken by the EU against Member States failing to produce the necessary data.

Earlier this week, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) assessed North Sea cod to have a spawning stock biomass that has increased since 2006 but which is still just short of the range desired. It also stated the amount of cod taken out of the sea (mortality) has also declined over the period but may not be at the desired level.

However, ICES concede 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 ICES advice is acted upon, then it will trigger automatic cuts in quota and also in the number of days that fishing vessels can spend at sea, which would come at a time when sections of the Scottish fleet are struggling to survive at present levels.

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the SFF says it would be absurd for further cuts to be imposed on the Scottish fishing fleet based on uncertain; science, especially since the Scottish fleet has been spearheading a raft of conservation measures such as the use of more selective gear and closed fishing areas.

Scottish fishermen, who have made strenuous efforts and to innovate and sacrifice in adopting a range of conservation initiatives, are being punished at least in part by the failure of some European countries to provide the necessary scientific information, he said.

This is scandalous and the EC must act as a matter of urgency to obtain the required information from those countries that have failed to supply the required data. The potential consequences are so serious that the time has come for the UK to demand that the EU take legal proceedings against those not playing their part.

Recognising that the science is uncertain and that public money for more scientific resource is unlikely to be forthcoming, we will do all in our power to make data available ourselves. The Scottish Fishermens Federation takes pride in our close working relationship with Marine Scotland Science based at the Marine Laboratory, Aberdeen, and we are now offering to do everything that we can to help provide scientists with more and immediate information on the status of stocks that can be factored into coherent fisheries management.

The view from fishermen, who have the earliest sight of what is happening on the grounds, is that there is a gap between the present uncertain assessments and reality.

We are taking this new lead to show the EC that we are serious about stock conservation and our efforts must be recognised when it comes to setting the catching opportunity regime for 2011.