‘Productive’ meetings held with Ministers

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Two productive meetings were held last week between the Scottish pelagic industry and new UK Fisheries Minister George Eustice and Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael to discuss a range of pelagic issues, including mackerel.

Negotiations have begun on two important stocks - blue whiting and Atlantic herring, with mackerel talks due to begin next week.

However, blue whiting discussions have been suspended until December as the results of a special ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) scientific request had not been finalised in time.

Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said: “The meeting with Mr Eustice provided an early opportunity to brief the minister on the importance of the autumn negotiation period for the pelagic fleet. We stressed to Mr Eustice that newly released mackerel scientific advice demonstrated that the stock was in robust health and that the UK should not feel pressurised into securing a deal which jeopardised the future of the UK pelagic fleet.

“Given that ICES are about to undertake a full evaluation of the mackerel stock in February 2014 it would make sense to wait until the results of this work has been finalised.

“We also reminded the minister that Norway are our partners in the mackerel fishery and as such any strategy to find a solution to the mackerel impasse must be taken forward jointly by the EU and Norway.

“Our first meeting with Mr Eustice was extremely useful andwe found the Minister to be well informed which was demonstrated by his considered responses.

“We also had a very useful briefing session with Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael, who expressed his full support for our industry.”

Both ministers were also briefed on the ‘totally unacceptable actions’ of the Faroese to suddenly withdraw from an international fisheries agreement for Atlanto-Scandian herring earlier this year and then set a unilateral quota more than three times their traditional share. “