Scottish warning over EC fish quota proposals

image captionThe Scottish Fishermen's Federation made a warning over quotas

A Scottish fishing leader has said proposals by the European Commission to reduce quotas next year will encourage skippers to throw healthy fish back.

Bertie Armstrong, head of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, said the cutbacks were "across the board".

The recommendations include cutting west coast haddock and cod quotas by 25% and 50% respectively.

Quotas for prawns, one of the most valuable catches, would be cut by 9% in the North Sea and 15% in the west.

The proposals form the basis of December's annual quota talks between EU member states in Brussels.

Mr Armstrong claimed nothing in the recommendations acknowledged the work the Scottish industry has done to sustain stocks.

He said there was a large gulf between the industry and the commission.

"The fishing industry has been left to find out from the media what next year's opportunity will be and this is totally unacceptable," Mr Armstrong added.

"The list of proposals - reductions across the list of stocks covered - is only part of the picture for the Scottish fleet and next week will see the EU negotiate on our behalf for seven important shared stocks, including North Sea cod.

"But the approach that will be taken by the commission has been telegraphed clearly and we can expect little comfort.

"No account has been taken in any of these proposals of the innovation and sacrifices made by the Scottish fleet in pursuit of sensible management. This simply must change."

Bitter wrangle

The industry is already involved in a bitter wrangle over mackerel quotas.

Iceland and the Faroes sparked outrage by unilaterally setting mackerel quotas in their own waters.

A second round of talks aimed at settling the row recently ended without agreement.

Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said the positions of Iceland and the Faroes remained "far apart" from those of the EU and Norway.

He added: "This difficult advice underlines the challenging negotiations that lie ahead for our fishing communities.

"This year's annual merry-go-round in Brussels will be as tough as ever.

"Much of the advice flows from the agreed long-term management plans, but we will be taking issue with the advice for some key stocks where we will be demanding that Scotland's sacrifice in helping concern stocks is rewarded and recognised."

Struan Stevenson MEP, who is senior vice president of the European Parliament's fisheries committee, said the latest round of quotas was a "body blow".

He added: "The Common Fisheries Policy has all but strangled Scotland's once-proud fishing industry.

"It has encouraged overexploitation and waste on a colossal scale. A million tonnes of perfectly good but over-quota fish is dumped dead into the sea annually.

"Commissioner [Maria] Damanaki must reform the unwieldy and counterproductive CFP - before Scotland's fishing industry is totally wiped out."

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