Scotland’s pelagic fishermen have urged the Coastal States fishing mackerel, blue whiting and Atlanto-Scandian herring in the north-east Atlantic to focus on more equitable quota shares as they renew their efforts to agree long-term sharing agreements for each of these stocks.
After more than a year of minimal progress, during which aggregate catches of all three stocks exceeded scientific advice, talks are due to resume on sharing in London next week.
“Zonal attachment – essentially, the principle that quota shares should be apportioned according to the presence of fish in each party’s waters – has to be the prime criterion in any long-term deal,” said Ian Gatt of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association. “There is no path to a stable agreement that ignores this well-understood and objective concept, and discussions will remain fruitless until all parties accept that. And in the meantime the sustainability of these fisheries remains at risk.
“Coastal States welcomed the outcome of the 2023 Coastal States Working Group on the distribution of mackerel in the north-east Atlantic. Scottish pelagic fishermen insist that all parties use the report’s findings as the basis for long-term quota shares.”
Industry leaders believe that as the largest stakeholder in mackerel, the most valuable of the three fisheries concerned, the UK can set the tone for all three sets of discussions.
For the Shetland Fishermen’s Association, Simon Collins explained: “By insisting on zonal attachment as the key principle in any allocation, by ruling out past unilateral quota increases as a starting point for any Coastal State and by refusing access by other parties to our waters, the UK is in a position to drive faster progress all round.
“So far the UK has made commendable efforts to accommodate all of the other parties to the mackerel fishery, that is the EU, Norway, Iceland, Faroe and Greenland. A different approach is now required – and that goes for blue whiting and herring as well.”