Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead hosted a conference of ministers and officials from around the North Sea at Ardoe House Hotel in Aberdeen to discuss how fish discards could be tackled and the need for greater regionalisation of fisheries management.
Alongside the Fisheries Ministers from the UK, Norway and Denmark, Mr Lochhead presented a joint declaration to European Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki, who was making her first official visit to the UK.
The Ardoe Declaration sets out that:
- Member states should take all possible steps to account for and manage catches by their fishing fleets - without the discarding of dead fish back in to the sea;
- The 'catch less land more' trials by Scotland and others can reduce discards and increase revenue, while encouraging more sustainable fishing;
- Effective fisheries management in the North Sea should be results-based, with states determining how to achieve shared objectives, in coordination with each other;
- New models need to be developed for regionalised fisheries management, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.
In Aberdeen Mr Lochhead said: "Alongside my European ministerial colleagues, I was delighted to welcome Commissioner Damanaki to Scotland - on her first official UK visit - and present her with our joint declaration for progressive change in fisheries management.
"The Common Fisheries Policy is acknowledged as failed and damaging and I firmly believe that progressive change, with an end to wasteful fish discards and greater regional control of fisheries management, is the right way forward.
"The CFP, with its rigid centralised approach, has enforced the nonsensical practice on our fishermen of dumping valuable fish, dead, back in the sea. Today's conference of northern fishing nations has presented a united front to press for real change across the North Sea region and beyond.
"Scotland has led the way by trialling new, innovative fishing practices with the central premise of landing what you catch - ultimately, this means fishermen can land more fish but take less from the sea, thanks to the reduction of discards.
"At a time when fish stocks are under pressure - as illustrated by the excessive fishing of mackerel by Iceland and the Faroes - closer cooperation between neighbouring countries with more regional collaboration is needed. That's why we are pressing for a change of tack, so that sustainable and accountable fishing practices are encouraged while cultivating a long-term, viable future for fishing in Northern Europe."
Responding to the outcome of today’s meeting of North Sea Fishing Ministers in Aberdeen to discuss the future of fisheries management, which included the call for a fundamental change in the management regime, Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chief executive Bertie Armstrong said: "The meeting of Ministers and officials has produced a list of aspirations based upon a fundamental change to the way fisheries are managed. The aim is to eliminate discards by counting quota against what is caught and not, as previously, what is landed. With a Scottish fleet in commercial distress - some 40 boats will leave the fleet in the next six months – and trying its hardest to make sustainable fishing a reality, management change to take account of the Scottish fleet's efforts is sorely needed.
“The work that now needs to be done by politicians, government officials, the industry and the Commission is to forge the rule changes that actually meet the aim of reducing discards while maintaining commercial viability for all of the reduced fleet. We have a big challenge, both in the political forum and on the quayside, to make this work successful."