EC commissioner 'understands Scottish fishing anger'

image captionMaria Damanaki was presented with a gift of mackerel to highlight concerns

The EU fisheries commissioner has said she fully understands the feelings of Scottish fishermen who blockaded a boat amid concern over mackerel quotas.

Maria Damanaki, speaking in Aberdeen, warned the Faroese and Iceland they would face sanctions if they did not stop ignoring quota agreements.

She was presented with a gift of mackerel to highlight the concerns of the industry.

The commissioner told BBC Scotland: "I am going to protect our interests."

Iceland and the Faroe Islands unilaterally declared large catch quotas for mackerel, which Scottish skippers claim could damage its sustainability.

Fishermen blockaded a Faroese boat trying to land its catch in Peterhead as a result.

The Scottish Fishermen's Federation was holding talks with the commissioner on Friday.

The SFF said a large number of whitefish and prawn boats were "teetering on the brink of viability".

'Totally unjustifiable'

SFF chief executive Bertie Armstrong said: "A key point is the huge effort that has been made by the Scottish fleet in ensuring sustainable harvesting.

"The EC must recognise and reward the considerable sacrifice made by our fishermen by easing the current punishing fishing restrictions."

He warned: "A large number of whitefish and prawn boats are teetering on the brink of viability and many segments of the fleet simply will not survive if there is any further tightening of the screw.

"For fishermen to have faith in fisheries management they must be rewarded for their efforts.

"At the moment the fishing industry is enduring increasing restrictions year-after-year despite there being signs of fish stock recovery.

"The industry can only take so much and the point has now been reached for these restrictions to be eased."

'Closer co-operation'

Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said: "At a time when fish stocks are under pressure - as illustrated by the excessive fishing of mackerel by Iceland and the Faroes - closer co-operation 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."

Scottish Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson said: "I have been heartened by Commissioner Damanaki's tough stance on this issue and she remains committed to ensuring the EU is not pushed around.

"Iceland and the Faroes have taken a totally unjustifiable risk with North Atlantic mackerel stocks, which EU fishermen have worked hard to protect in recent years."

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