The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation is urging the UK and Scottish Governments to do all in their power to persuade the EC to ditch automatic cuts in the number of days that fishing vessels can go to sea next year.
The SFF is warning that if the cuts go ahead as part of the EC’s Cod Recovery Plan, then it would result in “critical damage” to the crucial whitefish and prawn fleets, while failing to contribute to the aim of the plan. These fleets represent a very significant proportion of the Scottish industry and under the cuts programme, the whitefish and prawn fleets will only be able to fish for around four days a fortnight, putting unbearable pressure on the economic viability of the industry.
Outlining the seriousness of the situation in letters to Scots fisheries minister, Richard Lochhead, and UK Environment, Food and Rural Affairs ministers Caroline Spelman and Richard Benyon, the SFF says the current Cod Recovery Plan is patently failing to meet its objectives, with latest scientific assessments suggesting that there is no clear correlation that cutting effort and slashing quotas reduces cod mortality.
Instead, the Scots industry has been spearheading the use of other conservation initiatives such as closed areas and the development of selective fishing gears as a more viable way of conserving stocks.
But it is apparent that the EC is committed to more cuts in fishing days for 2012 and that the only chance of overturning such a move is from sustained political pressure from the Scottish and UK Governments.
Bertie Armstrong, SFF chief executive, said: “It is obvious that the Cod Recovery Plan is failing to meet its own objectives and it is clear that further turns of the ratchet will produce no result other than critical damage to the fleet. Incredibly, despite annual cuts in days at sea, the EC has done nothing to calculate the severe socio-economic implications of such measures.
“The experience of three years of operation and now a formal review has revealed fundamental flaws in the long term plan for cod. However, it is clear that the EC considers that effort limitation has not gone far enough and that the problem does not lie with the Cod Plan, but with the way that it is being applied.
“This means that the only way to fight these plans is at the political level and this is why are urging the Scots and UK Governments to work together, with other European Member States affected by this, and fight hard to protect our valuable fishing industry. This is a matter of basic principle and the necessity to quickly repair bad management so as to ensure a viable and sustainable future for our fishing industry.”