Fisheries leaders have welcomed modest increases in haddock and cod quotas for 2015, agreed between the European Union and Norway.
At the conclusion of talks in Clonkilty in County Cork, Ireland, last week, which set the amount of fish Scottish boats can catch next year, The Scottish White Fish Producers Association and Shetland Fishermen’s Association said it was a positive sign that the European Commission was starting to recognised substantial growth in these stocks.
The cod and haddock TACs have been increased by five and six percent respectively. North Sea plaice has also had an increase. North Sea saithe, whiting and herring have seen decreases in line with their long term management plans.
As well as deciding TACs for the coming years, these talks have also successfully negotiated a repeat of last year’s inward transfers of haddock and whiting quota from Norway.
These transfers mean the Scottish industry has access to even more catching opportunities in 2015 and have the effect of raising the increase for haddock from 6% to 15% and limiting the reduction for whiting from 15% to 10%.
Commenting on the outcome, Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “I am pleased there has been an increase in the quota of these key stocks for next year which is in line with the recent scientific advice that the stocks are in good shape.
“It is welcome the agreement has been reached quickly this year compared to the protracted talks last year and will provide certainty for the industry about opportunities in 2015 and avoids any delays to the commencement of fishing in the new year.
“There is much to be done to prepare for the discard ban which starts to come into force for whitefish from 2016. This outcome will help these stocks continue to rebuild next year while also helping to minimise discards, and should provide a sound launchpad for establishing the following year’s quota under the ban.
“We now look ahead to the crucial December EU fisheries Council when we will be highlighting again that our vessels need to retain the number of days they can go to sea as any cut would simply be counterproductive.”
However, the White Fish Producers Association and Shetland Fishermen’s Association, which between them represent most of Scotland’s fleet, warned that a huge amount of effort would be required next year to prevent the discard ban, which will be introduced in 2016, wrecking the good work delivered thus far on improving sustainability in the Scottish fishing industry.
Chief executive of SWFPA Mike Park said: “While the quota increases in key stocks are a positive signal, the Commission and NGOs who have pursued reforms to eliminate discards need to start acknowledging the commitment of Scotland’s fishermen in delivering the recovery of fish stocks.
“It is now essential that they begin to look forward to a positive future rather than continuing to revisit the mistakes of the past.
“The fishing industry has changed out of all recognition and we are demanding innovative fisheries management to complement the innovation currently going on within the fishing sector.
“Delivering and maintaining sustainable fisheries and stable stocks is now uppermost in the minds of all fishermen.”
SFA executive officer Simon Collins added: “Nobody wants the unnecessary discarding of fish, but the Commission and the NGOs are wilfully ignoring the damage their botched reforms could do to what has become a forward-looking, environmentally-conscious industry.”
The associations urged Commission officials to think more constructively and deliver a fit-for-purpose, dynamic management regime.