Quota talks in Brus­sels in De­cem­ber likely to be ‘dif­fi­cult’ and ‘fraught’

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - NEWS - BY KEITH FIND­LAY

Fears are grow­ing that Scot­land’s fish­ing fleet may face a Brexit-fu­elled EU back­lash at end-of-year quota talks.

Con­cerns have been stoked by coastal state dis­cus­sions that have al­ready taken place be­tween the EU and non-EU fish­ing na­tions as part of the an­nual quota-set­ting process.

These ne­go­ti­a­tions were “par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult” in terms of how the UK’s fish­ing in­ter­ests were treated, one in­dus­try source said.

Fur­ther dis­cus­sions lead­ing up to and dur­ing the EU’s De­cem­ber Fish­eries Coun­cil in Brus­sels – when catch lim­its will be set for 2019 – are likely to fol­low in the same fash­ion, he warned.

Fish­eries sec­re­tary Fer­gus Ewing is also ex­pect­ing Brexit to limit what can be achieved in the com­ing weeks.

“Ne­go­ti­a­tion dy­nam­ics are likely to be dif­fer­ent this year, given this wider po­lit­i­cal land­scape,” Mr Ewing told guests at a re­cent in­dus­try gather­ing in Ed­in­burgh.

Brexit “may make things more dif­fi­cult” but it could also give the UK some ex­tra lever­age with part­ners look­ing for sta­bil­ity in the event of a “no deal”, he added.

Yes­ter­day, the Scot­tish Fish­er­men’s Fed­er­a­tion (SFF) said a back­lash would be counter-pro­duc­tive for other EU na­tions want­ing to fish Bri­tish wa­ters.

SFF chief ex­ec­u­tive Ber­tie Arm­strong said: “If EU na­tions want con­tin­ued ac­cess, any at­tempt at puni­tive ac­tion now would sim­ply back­fire for them later.”

Scot­tish White Fish Pro­duc­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion chief ex­ec­u­tive Mike Park said: “We ex­pect these talks to be as fraught as last year, when there was an ob­vi­ous neg­a­tive re­ac­tion by the Com­mis­sion and mem­ber states to the UK leav­ing the club.”

Mr Park said fish­ers were also be­com­ing in­creas­ingly con­cerned about “the level of for­eign ef­fort” in Scot­tish wa­ters, es­pe­cially around Shet­land.

He added: “The level of Dan­ish, Nor­we­gian and Span­ish-owned, UKreg­is­tered ves­sels has reached wor­ry­ing lev­els.

In­dus­try chiefs south of the bor­der have pre­vi­ously warned that fish­ing “wars” could reignite fol­low­ing Brexit.

In Au­gust, rocks and smoke bombs were launched by more than 30 French ves­sels to­wards five Bri­tish boats off the coast of Nor­mandy in a protest over ac­cess rights for valu­able scal­lop fish­eries.

Scot­tish fish­ers are al­ready fac­ing huge cuts to their cod and had­dock quo­tas next year – if an in­flu­en­tial group of ma­rine sci­en­tists get their way.

Ear­lier this year, the In­ter­na­tional Coun­cil for the Ex­plo­ration of the Seas (Ices), which ad­vises the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion on the health of stocks, pro­posed a 47% cut to the to­tal al­low­able catch (TAC) limit for North Sea cod.

Ices also wants cuts made in had­dock, plaice, whit­ing and saithe TAC and, po­ten­tially the most dam­ag­ing pro­posal, a 70% cut in north-east At­lantic mack­erel, worth £162 mil­lion last year.

CON­CERN: Scot­tish fleets are al­ready fac­ing huge cuts to their cod and had­dock quo­tas next year

Pho­to­graph by Kami Thom­son

Ber­tie Arm­strong, Scot­tish Fish­er­men’s Fed­er­a­tion chief ex­ec­u­tive.

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