Lochhead excluded from EU fishing talks

Richard Lochhead has been denied the opportunity to share Scotland’s experiences in tackling fish discards at an EU meeting in Brussels today (March 1).

Scotland has led Europe in taking forward meaningful efforts to reduce wasteful discards - a practice enforced on fishermen by the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy.

However, a request by Mr Lochhead to European Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki to attend a high level meeting on discards today has been declined, while the UK Government is unwilling to allow Scotland to represent on the UK’s behalf.

Mr Lochhead said: “Across Europe Scotland is recognised as being at the fore of innovative ways to address the nonsensical practice of discarding marketable fish back in the sea, dead.

“Commissioner Damanaki has expressed her desire to work closely with Scotland on the issue, therefore it is very disappointing that my request to take part in a key EU meeting on discards has been declined.

“If Scotland is not there to bring the experience of our industry to the table, I fear the EU will make its usual mistakes and propose measures that are counter-productive.

“Even though Scotland is home to the EU’s largest whitefish fleet, the UK Government is not willing to allow Scotland the opportunity to attend on behalf of the UK – with representation limited to one per member state – and share our experiences at a meeting to shape EU policy on tackling discards.

“Incredibly, landlocked countries such as Austria and the Czech Republic have been invited to take part – despite their lack of a coastline, never mind a fishing fleet.

“Methods pioneered in Scotland have demonstrated real progress in reducing discards and, since 2008, discards by Scottish whitefish vessels in the North Sea have fallen by half, the greatest reduction achieved in the EU.

“These approaches include our catch quota scheme – where fishermen are rewarded with increased quota in return for no discards – and more selective fishing, where undersized fish are avoided.”