Pelagic fishermen from across Scotland have united to demand an urgent rethink of a political deal which is allowing Faroe to catch a third of its mackerel quota (40,000 tonnes) in EU waters.
In a joint statement ahead of crunch EU-Faroe talks in Copenhagen next week, the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association and the Shetland Fishermen’s Association are pressing for a rebalancing of the arrangements.
The bilateral deal, agreed in 2014, had been designed to allow Faroese vessels to catch a proportion of their mackerel and blue whiting quota in EU waters and UK boats to catch some of their quota for these species in Faroese waters.
However, an independent study carried by Seafish has shown that Faroe had overshot their mackerel access entitlement by 1,400 tonnes from EU waters last year while UK boats caught no mackerel or blue whiting at all in Faroese waters.
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said: “The deal with Faroe has some positive elements, principally giving a small number of Scottish whitefish boats access to Faroese quota.
“But on the pelagic side the Faroese have been given an inch and taken a mile, even over-shooting their permitted quota. This deal is having a real negative impact on the pelagic processing sector. As Faroe can catch high quality mackerel from our waters they can now access our hard fought for markets.
“This shows there is a fundamental imbalance in this fisheries arrangement which needs to be changed now.”
Simon Collins, executive officer of the Shetland Fishermen’s Association, said: “It cannot be beyond the wit of EU negotiators to obtain a fairer deal on mackerel fisheries without endangering EU access to Faroese waters for other stocks.
“Current access arrangements are so skewed in favour of Faroe that it is hard to imagine how the EU got to this situation in the first place.”