European Commission plans for cuts in North Sea quotas of major species such as haddock, whiting and saithe will have the perverse effect of increasing the amount of fish discarded at sea, Shetland fishermen have warned.
Prior to talks between the EU and Norway on shared stocks scheduled to begin on Monday (27th Jan), executive officer of Shetland Fishermen’s Association Simon Collins highlighted the fact that stocks of these fish were abundant around the islands.
“No one wants to see perfectly healthy, high-quality fish dumped back into the sea, dead,” said Mr Collins.
“But in accordance with multi-annual plans devised before the discard ban materialised, the European Commission is proposing cuts in already inadequate quotas.
“Not for the first time, quotas are simply failing to catch up with what is happening on our fishing grounds. And the result is discarding for purely regulatory reasons.
“It is bitterly ironic to hear the commission arguing for quota cuts that would necessarily lead to more discards, as it was one of the prime movers in the so-called discard ban. Is it serious about tackling discards or not?”
Mr Collins emphasised that Shetland boats were conducting trials to see how a discard ban, due to come into force for pelagic fisheries on 1st January 2015 and for other fisheries the following year, might work in practice.
“Our whitefish fleet has voluntarily taken a lead on this, designing and conducting trials, the results of which we will feed back to the commission and the Scottish Government.
“This move by the commission to aggravate an already complex problem is a slap in the face.”
Uncertainty over the amount of some of the major stocks caught by Shetland fishermen – cod, haddock, saithe and whiting – will not be resolved until an agreement is reached between the EU and Norway.