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SFF: West Coast Prospects Look Bleak

SCOTLAND, UK - The Scottish Fishermens Federation will tomorrow (5 November) tell the Rural Affairs and Environment Committee of the Scottish Parliament that an extremely difficult set of negotiations lie ahead at the December EU Fish Council, which will decide upon catching opportunity for 2009.

The submission from the SFF will be part of a briefing to the committee on the main priorities for the crucial end-of-the-year quota talks.

The SFF will tell the committee that prospects for the West coast look particularly bleak, with the EU tabling initial proposals that could lead to an almost total shutdown of the area to trawl fishing.

Bertie Armstrong, SFF chief executive, will tell committee members that the proposals for the West coast are completely unacceptable and if imposed in their current form would deny Scottish fishermen the chance to sustainably harvest the healthy langoustine stock, which forms the lifeblood of the West coast industry.

“We recognise that there is a problem with West coast whitefish stocks and sensible measures are needed to ensure their recovery, but the current EU proposals are impracticable and would have a major impact on West coast communities,” said Mr Armstrong. “It would also have the unfortunate affect of displacing fishing effort into the North Sea.”

Similarly, in the North Sea the Commission is looking for effort reductions aimed at conserving cod, which are totally inappropriate for the langoustine fishery and fail to take into account the ongoing recovery of the cod stock.

Mr Armstrong added: “The cod stock is currently undergoing recovery and part of the problem lies in the fact that there is a time-lag in gathering scientific data so that by the time the quota is set, the stock has moved on in recovery terms and discarding becomes inevitable.

“The solution lies in a combination of avoidance measures such as those already adopted this year in the shape of Scottish real-time closures and technical measures to release unwanted fish. There is also the need for a realistic increase in quota to match the actual size of the stock. Acceptance of this will result in a much desired reduction in discards, with the industry catching less and landing more. It is also a priority to protect the requirements of the langoustine industry, which is sustainably fishing a healthy stock. “Scotland is pioneering the way in creating innovative solutions such as through the self regulation of days-at-sea under the conservation credits scheme. The Scottish fishing industry will be pressing for a more intelligent approach to stock conservation that will provide real solutions. “With the present backdrop of world economic downturn, there has never been a more important time for government and industry to unite in preserving a sustainable, renewable resource of world-class food production on our own doorstep.”