Crit­i­cal talks over fish­eries seem­ingly at an im­passe

Mar­itime: Catch lim­its are at stake

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

Crunch talks af­fect­ing the fu­ture of North Sea fish­ing seemed to have reached an im­passe last night.

Dis­cus­sions in Lon­don be­tween Euro­pean Union and Nor­we­gian gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials dragged on longer than ex­pected, spark­ing ru­mours an­other round will be nec­es­sary.

Key species for Scot­land’s valu­able white-fish sec­tor are in fish­eries jointly man­aged by the EU and Nor­way.

An­nual catch lim­its for cod, had­dock and other fish in these ar­eas are de­cided ev­ery year in bi­lat­eral ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the two sides in the runup to the all-im­por­tant De­cem­ber Fish­eries Coun­cil in Brus­sels.

This week’s EU-Nor­way talks should have de­liv­ered an out­come for EU fish­eries min­is­ters to rub­ber-stamp at the coun­cil meet­ing in Bel­gium later this month.

Ac­cord­ing to Scot­tish White Fish Pro­duc­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion chief ex­ec­u­tive Mike Park, Euro­pean Com­mis­sion (EC) pro­pos­als cur­rently on the ta­ble are “mostly in line with the sci­ence” but with “some mit­i­ga­tion” on a rec­om­mended cut in the to­tal al­low­able catch (TAC) for North Sea cod.

Ear­lier this year the In­ter­na­tional Coun­cil for the Ex­plo­ration of the Seas (Ices), which ad­vises the EC on the health of stocks, pro­posed a 47% cut to the cod TAC.

Ices also called for cuts to North Sea had­dock, plaice, whit­ing and saithe quo­tas.

Po­ten­tially the most dam­ag­ing pro­posal from Ices, a 70% cut in north-east At­lantic mack­erel, worth £162 mil­lion to the in­dus­try in Scot­land last year, was wa­tered down sub­stan­tially in a deal struck be­tween the EU, Nor­way and Faroe at coastal state talks last week.

Even so, Scot­tish mack­erel fish­ers face a 20% cut in quota next year.

The quota talks are tak­ing place amid pres­sure from en­vi­ron­men­tal groups for gov­ern­ments to crack down on “over­fish­ing”.

Mean­while, Banff and Buchan Tory MP David Duguid said yesterday he had re­ceived fresh as­sur­ances that the UK Gov­ern­ment will get “the best deal” for fish­ers af­ter Brexit.

Mr Duguid, along with all 12 of his Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tive col­leagues at West­min­ster, wrote to the prime minister to make sure the Scot­tish fleet will not be bound by EU rules af­ter the Brexit tran­si­tion.

In her re­sponse, Theresa May said a new fish­eries agree­ment would be a “rad­i­cal de­par­ture from the un­fair­ness of the Com­mon Fish­eries Pol­icy”.

VALU­ABLE CATCH: The lim­its of key species for the white fish sec­tor are at is­sue

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