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Key Decisions on CFP Reform Loom - Crucial Time for Scottish Industry

SCOTLAND, UK - The Scottish fishing industry is now entering one of its most important periods in recent memory with the reform process for the Common Fisheries Policy at a crucial stage, says the Scottish Fishermens Federation ahead of tomorrows debate in the Scottish Parliament on CFP reform.

The decisions reached over the next few months will shape the management of European fisheries for the foreseeable future states Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the SFF, who warns that it is vital that every effort is made to ensure that a good deal is reached that will secure the future of Scottish fishing.

It would be a tragedy if this turned out to be another wasted opportunity, he says. The over-riding point is that all the good ideas being proposed, many of which have widespread political support, dont end up in completely unworkable legislation that fails to deliver a sustainable and profitable future.

So, what are the priorities ahead? Well, undoubtedly, one of the key areas is the need for effective regional management. Although the EC says it supports the principle of regional management, it has been vague on the detail and there is a real fear that we end-up with a watered-down or ineffective regime that fails to deliver effective local management and control.

The arguments for strong regional control have been repeated time and time again, but we need to keep pressing home this message to the EC. In a nutshell, the broad one-size fits all approach to fisheries management does not work and is a ludicrous way to manage the intricacies and unique circumstances of individual and mixed regional fisheries.

Instead, there needs to be regime where stakeholders, scientists and the relevant governments all work together to develop practicable management regimes that deliver sustainability as well as a profitable future for our fishing fleets. It may seem obvious, yet there is a real danger that we end up with an unacceptable compromise.

Then there is the issue of discards. There is a requirement for the new CFP regulation to provide a practical plan, but already there are all kinds of amendments cropping up, and our priority is to ensure that we end up with a realistic programme that takes a sensible and graduated approach, which also recognises that huge unilateral strides the Scottish industry has taken to dramatically reduce discard levels through the pioneering use of new and selective types of fishing gear, along with other measures such as real-time area closures.

We must also guard against inappropriate regulation for the protected fishery recovery areas that are being proposed. The initial indications from those that have been prepared so far are that they are incredibly simplistic and contain apparently random percentages of sea-space to be protected.

Mr Armstrong concluded: There is still much to be done to ensure that a practicable new CFP regulation is achieved by the end of this year that delivers our aspirations for a viable and sustainable future, which in our view can only be achieved if fishermen are involved much more closely in the decision-making and management process.

Lucy Towers

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