NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

UK fisheries ministers to speak with 'one voice'

Image caption Ministers have criticised the Common Fisheries Policy

The UK will speak with "one voice" when calling for the reform of EU rules governing the fishing industry, a UK government minister has said.

Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon spoke out after a European meeting in Luxembourg, also attended by Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead.

Both ministers have criticised the Common Fisheries Policy and quotas, which forces skippers to discard fish.

The meeting was billed as a test of the "respect agenda" between the two.

Tory MP Mr Benyon said: "This is the start of a long road but I am determined that, with the support of ministers from the devolved governments, the UK speaks with one voice to secure a reform that will benefit the whole of the UK fishing industry, with conservation and business working hand-in-hand."

Negotiations with Iceland and the Faroe Islands over Atlantic mackerel were also raised with EU commissioner Maria Damanaki.

Mr Benyon added: "This is the UK's most economically important fishery, contributing £140m to the economy, and is of particular importance to Scotland.

"The sustainability of this well-managed stock must not be put at risk by the setting of unrealistic and irresponsible quotas.

"I am clear that Iceland and the Faroe Islands must co-operate with other countries to effectively manage this vital fish stock."

Mr Lochhead said Scotland had already shown leadership in sustainable fisheries, through a conservation credit scheme and catch-quota trials.

He said: "The Common Fisheries Policy as it stands is damaging and ineffective.

"Scotland has led the debate and proposed ways in which real decision-making power could be returned to EU member states and to fisheries stakeholders - those who have the knowledge and passion to deliver real and lasting change that will safeguard stocks and secure livelihoods at the same time.

"These are undoubtedly challenging times for many working in Scotland's fishing industry but there are also real success stories.

"The negotiations promise to be very testing but, as ever, we are determined to secure a fair deal for Scotland which rewards our fishermen for their decisive efforts on conservation."

Mr Lochhead added: "I warmly welcome commissioner Damanaki's commitment to take a number of steps to make Iceland and the Faroe Islands see sense regarding mackerel, Scotland's most valuable single fishery."

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