Talks 'challenging but acceptable' says SFF

SFF chief Bertie Armstrong said the Scottish delegation worked long and hard along with their UK colleagues to give the best chance of avoiding fleet shutdown during 2019
SFF chief Bertie Armstrong said the Scottish delegation worked long and hard along with their UK colleagues to give the best chance of avoiding fleet shutdown during 2019

The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation described the outcome of the annual December Fisheries Council, which concluded in the early hours of Wednesday, as ‘challenging but acceptable for the fishing fleet’.

At the conclusion of the talks, a resolution was agreed seeking to secure year-long fishing opportunities for all Scottish vessels. That includes mitigating potential ‘choke risk’ species including Cod and Whiting on the West Coast of Scotland, and Link and Hake in the North Sea.

The deal also allows for an urgent review of the discard ban before it has unintended and unjust impacts on the industry.

SFF chief executive, Bertie Armstrong, said the talks had been “difficult” with the additional element this year of politics related to Brexit.

“For the Scottish industry, the central issue has been the inclusion of measures to limit the risk of ‘chokes’ by swapping between member states.

“The Scottish delegation worked long and hard along with their UK colleagues to give the best chance of avoiding fleet shutdown during 2019. In the end, it is clear that our best interests can only be put first when we have left the CFP and are able to decide who catches what, where and when in UK waters.”

Commenting on the talks Fisheries Secretary Fergus Ewing said that while he was sure many within the industry would share his disappointment at some of the outcomes agreed, they would recognise that the Scottish Government made the best of a bad situation and had returned with something close to the best possible deal that could realistically be secured.

“We had always suspected this would be a particularly difficult Council, and so it proved to be,” he said.

“Of course, there’s a lot more work yet to be done before January 1 to prepare Scotland’s fleet for what may be a very challenging year ahead, but we will be working closely with the industry - as ever - to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for Scottish fishermen.”

“It’s more important than ever that we do everything in our power to make the most of the current deal - as it could be in place for some time.”

Mike Park, chief executive of the Scottish White Fish Producers Association added: “The outcome is less than what we hoped but as much as was possible under the circumstances. The important outcome is that our fleets should now be able to fully utilise the opportunities available to them in 2019”.