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Fishing Opportunities For The Future

UK - On the eve of the final round of EU/Norway talks, which will set some of the important catching opportunity for 2011, Scottish Fishermens Federation chief executive Bertie Armstrong is calling for substance and not spin in government descriptions of the prospects for 2011.

Mr Armstrong said: “The sector of the Scottish fleet most affected by the imminent talks will be the whitefish vessels, the majority of which are based in the north-east of Scotland and the Northern Isles. There will be no doubt be some limited successes in the talks and some disappointments but the final outcome will be in the order of 10-15 per cent downturn in quota and the same, or worse, in number of days vessels can put to sea.

”Where substance is required, instead of the current spin, is in the matter of the one hope for salvation - 'catch quotas' or, 'land all you catch'. The system has, without doubt, potential for the future. However, it is absolutely clear from those who participated in the trials to date that unless there are changes to the present TAC and quota rules, then they will simply not work either in reducing discards or in improving the commercial position of the whitefish fleet. The rules cannot be changed in the imminent talks or in the over-arching Council of Ministers next month because the mechanism to do so does not exist.

”We have had the concept of catch quotas under trial for some two years now. The SFF has made it absolutely clear from the beginning that without changes to the regulations to take account of mixed fisheries - an ‘ecosystem" approach’ - then the scheme will simply fail. What has happened over these two years is that an attempt has been made to press the scheme into service over the top of the present system. If this continues, then we will have swallowed a suicide pill.

”What we need, therefore, is a dose of realism. Let's see what can be salvaged by way of opportunity between now and next year and make 2011 the year where the rules are made to fit reality. This will require some strong and solid political will across the UK government machinery responsible for fisheries to get the necessary changes through. I repeat the message - there must be substance, not spin. We are now, quite literally for the whitefish fleet, on our last chance.”

the Fish Site Editor

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