While welcoming reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), Mike Park, chief executive of the Scottish White Fish Producers Association (SWFPA), said successful implementation of the landings obligation in January 2016 would be an “enormous challenge” for government and industry.
“Maintaining an economically viable fleet will be hugely difficult – if not impossible – if the discard ban comes in without other major changes to the management regime,” he said.
“A move in emphasis away from landings to catches provides real potential for fishing businesses to prosper.
“But it is imperative that the issues in the way are identified early and tackled to ensure a future for the industry around our shores.”
In the SWFPA’s official response to the European Commission consultation on technical measures in the reformed CFP, Mr Park identifies the key issues as:
• Choke species – types of fish that are abundant but have low quotas which in a mixed fishery are quickly exhausted, preventing further fishing for the main target species
• A command and control approach from the European Commission on technical measures which contradicts the move to regional management in the reformed CFP
• Failure of the derogations in the reformed CFP to provide a “soft landing” for the discard ban to give time for it to be implemented satisfactorily.
In the response, Mr Park says: “The cod fishery to the west of Scotland is one area where a total allowable catch (TAC) aligned to maximum sustainable yield (MSY) would deliver around one fifth of the tonnage required to maintain and fully prosecute the target fishery of monkfish.
“There are many other fisheries where insistence that MSY is maintained for by-catch will lead to an early loss of economic viability.
“It is beyond reason therefore to expect simultaneous delivery of economic viability, MSY harvesting and the landings obligation.”
Mr Park calls on the Commission to abandon its prescriptive approach to regulating the mechanics of fishing.
“Paternalism and top down management have no place in output-focused management. It would be supremely duplicitous to hand the reins of responsibility to fishers, then to prescribe how they should make the best fit; it is very much at odds with a move to regional management.”
He says the SWFPA agrees with the North Sea Advisory Council, which has said that “in terms of presenting technical measures, it is time for the Commission, Council of Ministers and European Parliament to leave the stage”.
He adds: “What should be avoided is any prescriptiveness with regard to net characteristics, reference gears or set limits on species mix.”
Mr Park also calls for the abandonment of limits on days at sea and the one net rule.
The SWFPA represents 200 boats and 1,200 fishermen operating across a wide range of gear types, target species and management areas.