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Commercial Fishing


Fish Council agrees mitigation for impact of Discard Ban

Fish Council agrees mitigation for impact of discard banAt the conclusion of this year’s annual fisheries negotiations in Brussels, for Scotland, a resolution has been agreed that seeks to secure year-long fishing opportunities for all Scottish vessels. That includes mitigating potential ‘choke risk’ species including Cod and Whiting on the West of Scotland, and Ling and Hake in the North Sea.

The deal also allows for an urgent review of the discard ban before it has unintended and unjust impacts on industry.

The deal meets one of Scotland’s main priorities, which was to see West of Scotland stocks protected from potential overfishing, ensuring a sustainable future for those important species and the Scottish fishing fleet which relies upon their continued prosperity.

Fisheries Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “This year’s negotiations in Brussels have been undertaken against an extraordinary political backdrop, adding to the already significant challenge of securing a good deal for Scottish fishing.  Although it is worth noting that we were not in isolation, with reduced quotas being faced by all Member States across the board.

“I’m sure that many within our fishing industry will share my disappointment at some of the outcomes agreed, but recognise that the Scottish Government made the best of a bad situation, and is returning with something close to the best possible deal that could realistically be secured. We had always suspected that this would be a particularly difficult Council, and so it proved to be.

“Prior to the negotiations I stated that our priority was to find a resolution for choke risks associated with low or zero Total Allowable Catch (TAC) stocks above all other issues, so I’m very happy that a workable solution has been identified for Cod and Whiting stocks in particular. I’m sure that news will be welcomed wholeheartedly by the West of Scotland fishing industry, along with the potential to review the discard ban, should it be deemed necessary to stop any unintended consequences on our fishermen.

“That outcome was by no means certain though, and serves to demonstrate the valuable work done by Scottish officials in the past weeks and months.

“Of course there’s a lot more work yet to be done before January 1 to prepare Scotland’s fleet for what may be a very challenging year ahead, but we will be working closely with industry – as ever – to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for Scottish fishermen.

“One of the side effects of Brexit is that there is no guarantee that Scotland and the UK Government will have a vote on what happens for the foreseeable future, so it’s more important than ever that we do everything in our power to make the most of the current deal – as it could be in place for some time.

The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation described the outcome of the annual December Fisheries Council as challenging but acceptable for the fishing fleet.

Chief executive Bertie Armstrong said: “The talks have been difficult, as they always are, with the additional element this year of politics related to Brexit.

“For the Scottish industry, the central issue has been the inclusion of measures to limit the risk of ‘chokes’ by swapping between member states.

“The Scottish delegation worked long and hard along with their UK colleagues to give the best chance of avoiding fleet shutdown during 2019.

“In the end, it is clear that our best interests can only be put first when we have left the CFP and are able to decide who catches what, where and when in UK waters.”

Mike Park, Chief Exec of the Scottish White Fish Producers Association said:  “The dynamics of negotiations this year were always going to be complicated given full introduction of the landings obligation and the fact that this is our last fisheries council as a fully-fledged Member State. The outcome is less than what we hoped but as much as was possible under the circumstances.  The important outcome is that our fleets should now be able to fully utilise the opportunities available to them in 2019”.