Negotiations between the EU and Norway have concluded, with the European Commission deciding to proceed with the signing of the EU/Norway Agreement despite opposition from the UK and Ireland.
The agreement, which the Scottish negotiating team voted against, will see an increased access arrangement for Norway, which will enable them to catch 68% of their blue whiting catch allocation to the west of British Isles (compared to 61% previously).
On top of that, there will also be an additional transfer of 110,000 tonnes of EU blue whiting to Norway in comparison to the previous 75,000 tonnes.
Scottish fishermen have expressed their extreme disappointment at the blue whiting catch arrangements.
Ian Gatt, president of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said: “We are extremely disappointed at the outcome for blue whiting as it will disadvantage the Scottish pelagic fleet during the coming year.”
The outcome of the talks also saw a significant drop in the haddock quota due to a readjustment that needed to be made to accommodate a previous error in the scientific assessment.
However, there will be a quota uplift on top of this headline figure so that the fleet can meet the requirements of the landing obligation. A small increase in the North Sea Cod quota signals the continuing recovery of this important stock.
Fisheries Secretary, Fergus Ewing, welcomed overall increases of around 16% for both cod and whiting, and a significant overall increase of around 53% for saithe.
He said: “We’re pleased the agreement now gives certainty on quota levels on some key stocks in the North Sea next year. This is particularly important for cod and whiting that are introduced into the landing obligation in the North Sea next year.
“However, we feel the cost for this deal is excessive, where the Commission has chosen to give away 110,000 tonnes of Blue Whiting to Norway as well as incrase access to our waters for Norwegian vessels in 2017 with very little direct tangible benefit to the Scottish fishing industry. This is very disappointing, considering Scotland is the second largest contributor to the overall package,” he added.