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Major Innovation Called For In Fisheries Regulations

UK - The Scottish Fishermens Federation has told the UK Governments and the EC that the downward spiral of year-on-year reductions in catching opportunities for the under pressure Scottish whitefish and prawn fleets must stop and that urgent and innovative change is needed in the way that fisheries are managed.

In letters to Scottish Fisheries Minister Richard Lochhead, UK Minister Richard Benyon and EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki, Bertie Armstrong of the SFF says that a serious effort must made to develop regulations that cater for the complex mixed fisheries that the Scottish fleet operates in.

The SFF says that aside from the decommissioning of boats, the only real fisheries management initiative in recent times have been ‘Catch Quotas’*, which while the Federation believes have potential as a useful management tool for the future, the scheme nonetheless has a number of inherent flaws unless accompanied by changes in the management regulations.

Mr Armstrong said: “The SFF has made it clear from the beginning that without a fundamental overhaul of the single-species approach to mixed fisheries, catch quotas equate to a suicide pill: the potentially perfect compliance device applied to an unworkable set of rules.”

The Federation says the initiative led by the Scottish Government has resulted in progress with the “easy half” of the introduction having been achieved, but the second very much harder part of ensuring accompanying rule change has not been advanced at all.

Mr Armstrong said: “The potential damage from this skewed approach must not be under-estimated. Several of the biggest catchers within the present trial have made it very clear to the Federation that the scheme with the currently available amount of fish will simply not work. If this is to alter, then a serious attempt must be made to develop the existing rules to accommodate the complex situation found in mixed fisheries. The SFF will take the initiative, looking for assistance from scientists, government fisheries managers and the European Commission.”

The SFF letter also told the UK Governments and EC that the Federation will be placing real emphasis on the following four points during 2011.

Capacity reduction. As the 2009 Scottish government statistics show, the fleet is now at its smallest size ever. Over the last decade, in the first years in response to the need for stock recovery, the Scottish specific whitefish sector decommissioned 65 per cent of its capacity. The downward trend continues and in this final year of the period, 41 more vessels will leave the fleet. The point to be made is that overcapacity has continually been addressed.

Conservation Culture. The requirement to fish sustainably and responsibly has been long since recognised by the Scottish fleet. The Conservation Credits scheme, created to encourage innovation, has taken forward such initiatives as Real Time Closures and encouraged the development of selective gear. It has come to be regarded as an example of best practise in government/stakeholder cooperation. The point to be made is that the industry has engaged and changed and will continue to do so, up to the point of diminishing return.

Certification of Fisheries. Achieving accreditation of Scottish fisheries by the Marine Stewardship Council has been a particular success story. All main pelagic species have been accredited and Scottish haddock has been the most recent addition. Well over 60 per cent by value of Scottish fish are now accredited. Again, this initiative from the industry will continue.

What has been achieved? In short, and in particular for the whitefish fleet: limited recognition and no relief or reward, only retribution in the form of continuously decreasing catching opportunity.

Mr Armstrong added: “Strenuous efforts must be made to win the best possible fish catching opportunity deal for 2011. A much enhanced degree of solid political will is required if we are to have a commercially viable, sustainable UK fishing industry operating in the whitefish and prawn sectors."

the Fish Site Editor

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