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Extension Of Catch Quota Welcomed


SCOTLAND, UK - The Fisheries Secretary has announced an expansion to Scotland's innovative 'catch quota' trials, where fishermen can land more fish while catching less.

Where as under traditional quotas vessels have a set limit on the fish they can land and are forced to throw excess fish back in the sea dead, Scotland's catch quota scheme allows for all fish caught to be landed.

Following successful trials in 2010 involving 17 Scottish vessels, an expanded 26 vessel scheme gets underway this month. As well including boats from the whitefish fleet heartland in the North East of Scotland, skippers from across the country are taking part, including the West Coast, Orkney and Shetland.

Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said: "The scourge of fish discards is a practice enforced on our fishermen by Europe's despised Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). However, even while working under this broken framework, we are determined to find innovative measures to reduce discards and support more sustainable fishing practices by the Scottish fleet.

"We want to see our fishermen land all they catch and command a price for each fish - in return for taking less out of the sea in the first place. While catch quotas alone do not provide all the answers, it offers an important first step and provides the basis for more sustainable solutions in the future.

"Around half the whitefish fleet - 58 skippers - applied for the catch quota scheme this year, demonstrating the support within the industry. However it's frustrating that we are only being given the capacity to include 26 vessels, largely due to opposition and uncertainty from other countries who share Europe's waters with Scotland.

"This year, for some vessels, we also plan to test catch quotas beyond cod and extend to haddock and whiting. This will help us understand how the approach works in complex mixed fisheries, where quotas for different species can vary vastly.

"2011 is a critical year as we look to influence negotiations on the future of the CFP. The success of the catch quota trials can only strengthen our position, as Scotland demonstrates it can lead the way within the EU towards sustainable and discard-free fisheries."

Under catch quotas vessels can land, rather than be forced to discard, an extra amount equal to 12 per cent of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for cod. To ensure there are no discards, the fishing practices of participating vessels is fully documented through on-board cameras. The Scottish Government has provided 400,000 pounds for the purchase and installation of the new monitoring equipment.

Dr Mireille Thom, Marine Policy Officer at WWF Scotland said: "We welcome the possibility of testing this voluntary system further as its aim is to encourage more selective fishing, leading to less fish being taken from the sea and cutting down on wasteful discards. It also provides up to date and reliable data which is crucial for providing up to date scientific advice to those managing our fisheries."

In 2009, Scottish vessels were forced by the Common Fisheries Policy to discard almost 28,000 tonnes of fish, around a quarter of the whitefish catch, valued at 33 million pounds.