Responding to the latest advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) on total allowable catches (TACs) for 2022, Scotland’s two largest fishing associations said the whole approach was flawed and in need of substantive reform.
ICES is recommending reductions in the North Sea cod TAC of 10.3% and North Sea and West Coast saithe of 24%.
At the same time, it is advocating increases for North Sea and West Coast haddock of 154% and North Sea whiting of 236%.
“These numbers bear no relation to what our members are seeing out on the fishing grounds every day,” said Simon Collins, executive officer of the Shetland Fishermen’s Association.
“With such wild swings in both directions a regular occurrence in recent years, it is clear that ICES needs to take a good hard look at the process and consider whether its modelling is still relevant.
“At the same time, our governments need to ask themselves whether they are willing to create insoluble problems for our fishing fleet simply because a computer says so. The computer has often been wrong in the past, and in terms of cod at least it is catastrophically wrong now.”
Mike Park, chief executive of the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association, said: “It is very clear that ICES has not kept up with changes in the ecosystem, such as the migration of cod stocks which appears to be being driven by climate change.
“The SWFPA and SFA ask the Scottish Government to take seriously their suggestion of an independent panel to assess these numbers and put them into proper perspective.
“It is also time for urgent engagement by both the Scottish and UK governments with industry on this issue.
“There is no point in advising large increases in quotas for some stocks when absurdly small quotas for others caught at the same time prevent vessels from going to sea. Fish don’t swim together in neat shoals of their own species.”