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Fisheries Must Be Political Priority


SCOTLAND, UK - Leading the fisheries debate in Westminster today (Thursday) SNP Westminster Fisheries spokesperson Eilidh Whiteford MP said that the fishing industry must at last be treated as a serious political priority by the UK Government.

The Banff and Buchan MP secured time in parliament for a debate on fisheries ahead of crucial EU talks, and after it emerged that no Government time was to be made available for a fisheries debate, unlike in previous years.

Dr Whiteford used the debate to call for action to end discards with a ‘catch-less and land-more’ approach which incetivises conservation and reduces discarding.

Commenting Dr Whiteford said: “This is a crunch time for Scottish fishing and the industry must be treated as a serious political priority by the UK Government.

“With the prospects from the Fisheries Council offering a grim outlook for parts of the sector, including likely reductions in Total Allowable Catches for some of our key stocks, this debate comes at a crucial moment.

“The UK Government must finally acknowledge the abject failure of the CFP in its current form. It has failed the fishing industry, it has failed as a conservation strategy, and it’s failed our coastal communities.

“The real challenges we face now have to be seen in the context of a Common Fisheries Policy that for over 30 years has been systematically damaging our marine ecosystems, eroding the livelihoods of fishermen, and is inconsistently applied across the European Union. It is simply not fit for purpose. It’s my belief that we will not realise an economically and environmentally sustainable fishing industry until the CFP is replaced with a workable model of fisheries management.

“There is a growing consensus in the fishing industry, among fishing leaders, scientists, and environmental NGOs that a Regionalised approach offers a better way forward than the one-size-fits-nobody approach we have at the moment.

“Scotland has been at the forefront of pushing alternatives to the culture of discards imposed by Europe's flawed fisheries policy that forces fishermen to dump good quality fish back overboard, dead into the sea. This is a waste of a valuable food and economic resource. Nobody gains from discards, it is an abhorrent practice that can't be tolerated.

“This is a consequence of a European policy that determines quotas and catches based on what is landed rather than what is caught. It is why, in Scotland, have been saying that the way forward must be to 'catch less, land more'. That is, a system where fishermen catch fewer fish in the first place, yet land more of what they do catch. It is estimated that a system of no discarding cod and haddock could add as much as £16 million to the value of North Sea fisheries.

“A priority for the upcoming EU negotiations must be extension of the catch quota scheme trial led by the Scottish Government to one where any fisherman can take part, and to benefit from an increased 'catch quota', as well as extension of the scheme to cover other stocks such as haddock, whiting and plaice.”