The latest scientific assessments from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) indicates that North Sea haddock, cod and plaice stocks are all rising, as is megrim and Rockall haddock on the West coast.
Although this is only the first stage in the overall process of setting quotas for 2016, it would seem that these stocks will be in line for catch allocation increases in 2016.
However, according to the ICES advice, quotas for some other stocks – such as North Sea prawns (langoustines) and whiting – will fall in 2016.
Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the SFF said: “This most recent advice from ICES highlights how the strenuous efforts of our fishermen through a large variety of conservation measures is helping ensure that the majority of our fish stocks are healthy and moving in the right direction. As ever, in the dynamic natural environment of fisheries, some stocks will have quota cuts imposed.
“However, 2016 is a pivotal year for the Scottish fleet, given that the discard ban for demersal fishers will start to be phased in, which in itself will create a whole new set of challenges for the industry. It is imperative that the Scottish Government works closely with the fishing industry to maximise fishing opportunities for 2016 to help ensure the discard ban does not unduly impact upon fleet viability.
“Many questions still remain on how the new regime will be managed, including how to dispose of unmarketable fish that is landed as a consequence of the discard ban. This will be costly and at the moment it would seem to be the responsibility of the fishermen to bear the cost of transport and disposal, which is totally unacceptable and puts another unfair burden on our hard-pressed industry.
“A European Directive states that this is an issue that national governments must address, and we are pressing the Scottish Government to implement the appropriate support measures as a matter of course.”
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment, Richard Lochhead, added:
“As ever, the advice from ICES shows a mixed picture for our fishing industry, but it is certainly encouraging that increases have been advised for some of our most valuable stocks particularly haddock which is up by at least 30 per cent, North Sea cod which is increased by up to 15 per cent and plaice which is up by at least 15 per cent compared to last year.
"These figures confirm we are moving in the right direction and will be welcome news for the fishing industry. Our fishermen deserve immense credit for their part in the emerging recovery of the cod stock and I would like to thank them for their continued commitment to sustainable fishing.
“However, the overall advice for a reduction of around 17 per cent for North Sea Nephrops is disappointing, although it varies between the different grounds where they are fished.
“Publication of this advice marks the start of the annual cycle of negotiating our fleet’s fishing opportunities for the coming year. The Scottish Government will continue to work closely with all parts of the fishing industry over the summer to understand what these new assessments mean for them. This will help to shape the priorities we will take into the autumn’s talks to secure the best possible deal for Scottish fishermen and transition towards a whitefish discard ban.”