SCOTTISH Fisheries Secretary, Richard Lochhead, believes that fishermen can be ‘cautiously optimistic’ about the future of the industry after a turbulent few years of cuts and quotas.
Speaking at the start of the New Year, Mr Lochhead said after years of painful cuts and baffling rules imposed by the EU, some progress was finally achieved last month at the Fisheries Council in Brussels – meaning there is a chink of light for Scottish fishing – and the key is now to keep up the momentum for positive change as we prepare for more crucial decisions in 2013.
“In December we faced the very real risk that the European Commission would impose hugely damaging new cuts in days at sea, while refusing to find a way to prevent cod quota reductions,” he said. “Thankfully, we were successful in fighting off these measures. For the first time in five years we stopped the unnecessary automatic reductions in fishing time allowances under the so-called Cod Recovery Plan.
“That’s good news for our fishermen and the wider industry. Tackling unhelpful regulation is one way to improve the industry’s viability, but much more can be done to boost profitability.
“For instance, it’s critical we capture the value of every fish landed on our shores. Scottish seafood is delicious and high quality – yet that is not always reflected in the price achieved for our fish and shellfish.
“I believe we can secure a premium for Scottish seafood, much in the same way as is achieved for Scotch Beef or Scotch Lamb.”
He continued: “With the financial challenges in the EU markets are expected to continue, it’s all the more important that we make the most of what we have.
“The Scottish Government is committed to working with the industry in 2013 to help achieve that. This month our immediate priority is to reach a positive outcome in the EU-Norway talks, including the cod and mackerel quotas.
“Yet the excessive fishing of the mackerel stock by the Faroes and Iceland means a quota cut is expected for that particular fishery. However, I will not accept a double whammy for our pelagic sector, therefore will reject the Commission’s proposals for an even greater quota reduction that would only reward Iceland and Faroes for their irresponsible behaviour.
“Instead, we need the EU to finally confirm the long overdue sanction measures and take decisive action this year if Iceland and the Faroes continue to overfish the stock.
“My preference still remains for all parties to return to the negotiating table and to agree a fair agreement, but the ball is firmly in their court.
“Looking ahead, 2013 will be a pivotal year for the reform of the EU’s ill-fitting Common Fisheries Policy – which has been highly damaging for Scottish fishing communities and the stocks. “
That’s why we are pressing for radical changes, including changing the remote control from Brussels, with more management decisions taken at the local and regional level.
“We must not see the mistakes of the past 30 years repeated. This is a once in a generation opportunity we can’t afford to miss.”
He added: “It’s clear we will have our challenges to overcome in 2013, while we also must ensure Scotland’s leading role in promoting sustainable fishing continues. However, despite the obstacles I believe we can be cautiously optimistic about the future of Scottish fishing.”