The outcome of this will form an important indicator towards the final fisheries management measures that will be agreed by the EU Council of Ministers in mid-December, with the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) urging the UK and Scottish Governments to fight hard to ensure a fair deal is reached for the industry.
However, a number of difficult hurdles have still to be overcome, with particular problems revolving around mackerel. Earlier ‘coastal state’ negotiations between the EU, Norway and Faroes started well enough with quota agreement on some pelagic stocks including blue whiting and Atlanto Scandian herring. But agreement has yet to be reached on mackerel – a key stock for the Scottish pelagic fleet.
In previous years agreement on mackerel has usually been achieved quite quickly, but this year after two separate weeks of negotiations there is still an impasse.
Bertie Armstrong, Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chief executive, says a combination of factors has led to this logjam in the decision-making process.
“There have been a number of complications this year including the decision by Iceland to unilaterally take a staggeringly large quota of mackerel, combined with Norway’s inability to live with the rules that have applied to all participants for years,” he said.
“Not only is this worrying in its own right but it is affecting the progress of the EU/Norway talks – the outcome of which, alongside the mackerel decision, is vital for Scotland.
“The results of the EU/Norway talks this week will be of utmost importance to the Scottish fleet, including particularly the hard-pressed whitefish sector and those elements of the prawn fleet which have a significant bycatch of whitefish.”
The SFF will be pressing for three clear requirements at this year’s final round of fisheries management negotiations:
- The best deal possible is achieved for the UK fishing industry for 2010.
- Inappropriate regulation must be fiercely resisted.
- No trade-offs for superficially attractive short-term gains in regulation or change that will come back to haunt the industry at a later date.
Mr Armstrong said: “At the most recent EC Fish Council just last week, we had to swallow the bitter pill of a bad deal being reached for the West coast of Scotland. Such scenarios must not be allowed to happen again during these final rounds of negotiations. "
He said: “Over the coming weeks, the SFF will be making every effort to influence the process and ensure that the best possible deal is achieved for the industry and the communities it supports.”