Five key points to ensure Scotland’s fishing fleet get a fair and workable implementation of Europe’s flagship discard ban have been outlined by Fishing Secretary Richard Lochhead.
Mr Lochhead said to ensure the smooth implementation of the discard ban, he would:
- Ask the Commission for a clear timetable for taking the necessary preparatory actions to enable a sensible transition to the landing obligation (discard ban);
- Press for the development of new fisheries management tools, such as a Mixed Fisheries Plan, to replace the discredited Cod Recovery Plan;
- Work with other Member States to deliver a level playing field in terms of compliance and monitoring of the landing obligation;
- Develop, through the Scottish Seafood Partnership, a strategy for addressing the implications of the landing obligation for the onshore supply chain;
- Invite the new Fisheries Commissioner to Scotland to see for himself the challenges of implementing the landing obligation in Scotland.
Explaining why these points were important he said: “December Council this year is not just important in terms of our usual fishing priorities of getting the fairest quota deals and ensuring no cuts to the number of days fishermen can actually go to sea, it is also hugely significant because the first phase of the landing obligation comes into force early next year.
“Otherwise known as the discard ban, it will fundamentally change the way we fish and as a result we also need to rethink the fundamentals of how we manage fishing. I will therefore be pushing for new fisheries management approaches – such as a Mixed Fisheries Plan - to be developed to enable effective delivery of the discard ban while maintaining the viability of European fleets. At the moment we are trying to use tools, such as single species quotas, from around 30 years ago to try and manage new and evolving issues, which is nonsensical.
“Alongside new fisheries management approaches, we also need a clear timetable for these changes to be put in place to enable a sensible transition to meet the discard ban requirements. It is only fair that we take a consistent approach to ensure a level playing field is maintained across EU waters in terms of monitoring compliance.
“The implications of the discard ban will also be felt by Scotland’s hugely important onshore supply chain and I will therefore be asking the Scottish Seafood Partnership to assess those implications and to develop a strategy to address any impact.
“I have also invited Commissioner Vella to Scotland to meet Scottish skippers and see for himself the challenges of implementing the landing obligation in Scotland, and I hope that is an invitation he will take up shortly.”
Also speaking before the meeting, Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chief executive, Bertie Armstrong, warned that the discard ban is casting a huge cloud of uncertainty over the Scottish fishing fleet.
“No one abhors throwing good quality fish over the side more than our fishermen, but we are now in the ridiculous position where we have the discard ban coming into operation for mackerel and herring fishermen on 1 January, yet minimum landing size and catch composition rules have yet to be amended. This means that fishermen adhering to the new regulation will actually be breaking the law. We are in the perverse situation of which law a fisherman breaks first, or which piece of legislation the compliance agencies would have to enforce first.”