FUNDING FOR EXPANDED CATCH QUOTA TRIALS

The Scottish Government is preparing for an expanded catch quota scheme for 2011 and will provide up to 400,000 pounds to cover the cost of acquiring onboard monitoring equipment.

Unlike traditional quotas, where vessels have a set limit on the fish they can land and are forced to throw excess fish back in the sea dead, catch quotas allow for all fish caught to be landed. By stopping wasteful discards, this means fewer fish are taken from the sea yet more can be landed by fishermen.

To ensure there are no discards, the fishing practices of participating vessels is fully documented through on-board cameras.

The 400,000 pounds will be used for the purchase and installation of the monitoring equipment.

Fisheries Secretary, Richard Lochhead said: “The practice of discarding fish back into the sea, dead, is enforced on our fishermen through the EU’s flawed Common Fisheries Policy. This is an abhorrent practice that fishermen dislike, and flies in the face of our attempts to manage fish stocks sustainably.

“Catch quotas alone will not provide the solution to all the difficulties facing our fleets and fundamental changes to the European fisheries policy are needed.

“However, what our catch quota scheme achieves is to combine environmental responsibility with income opportunities. Extra quota is available to those taking part in the scheme, which removes the need to discard viable fish.

“We will continue to work with the industry to monitor this scheme as it is expanded in 2011 and get it working at its best. The future of Scotland’s fishing industry can only be secured through the continued co-operation of government and industry, with a shared determination to find solutions that sustain fish stocks yet keep the industry viable in these tough economic times.”

On December 3, the annual EU-Norway bilateral included agreement for Scotland’s catch quota scheme to more than double the 17 vessels currently involved in the trial to land, rather than be forced to discard, an extra amount equal to 12 per cent of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for cod.

The Scottish Government has written to skippers to invite applications to participate in the catch quota scheme for 2011, with a full subscription expected.

In 2009, 60,000 tonnes of North Sea whitefish worth £68 million were landed in Scotland, while the total catches were 88,000 tonnes worth an estimated £101 million.

This means that last year Scottish vessels were forced by the Common Fisheries Policy to discard almost 28,000 tonnes of fish, valued at £33 million.