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Soaring Cost of Fuel To Hit Scottish Fish Industry

SCOTLAND - The sky-high price of fuel could result in Scottish fishermen losing key quotas and catching opportunities to foreign fishing fleets, the Scottish Fishermens Federation is warning.

With Scottish boats unable to put to sea because of soaring fuel costs, the resultant failure of Scotland to fully catch its share of fish could result in the future reallocation of quotas by the EU to subsidised foreign fleets.

This will be just one of the many concerns that the SFF will highlight to Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead at a meeting in Aberdeen later today (12 May) to discuss the fuel crisis.

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive, said: "The obvious question is why fishing should be more deserving of support compared with other industry sectors such as road haulage.

"The answer lies in the unique nature of the industry. We are stewards of the sea, harvesting a natural and renewable resource that is allocated to the UK. If we fail to take our share because Scottish boats can’t afford to put to sea or are put out of business, then someone else will take our fish."

An EU proposal is currently on the table advocating any unused quota from one member state to be allocated to other member states, raising the real fear of Scotland losing valuable catching opportunity if it is unable to take its allocation.

At today's meeting the SFF will press the Scottish Government for a two-pronged approach to ensure industry survival. The first phase will require the introduction of short-term support measures to ensure fleet viability with phase two focusing on what can be done over the medium to long-term.

"High fuel prices are here to stay and we recognise that over the longer term the fishing industry needs to explore ways of becoming more efficient in order to remain viable. But to reach that stage, we desperately need short-term support measures."

At today's meeting, the SFF will also be asking for detailed analysis of the kind of support measures that European commercial competitors in the Spanish and French fleets are receiving.

Mr Armstrong said: "If competition rules are being broken, then they should be challenged, but if they are legal, then they must be matched."