Fishermen opt for high-risk policy in fight to secure future
3rd February 2004
SCOTTISH fishermen yesterday withdrew a threat to defy the law by ignoring European fishing legislation, which came into effect at the weekend.
Instead, they have decided to adopt a high-risk policy which, if it fails, could see the majority of the fleet tied up for the second half of the year.
The Scottish White Fish Producers' Association (SWFPA) is gambling on the hope that, over the next three months, their 150 vessels can gather enough scientific evidence to prove in certain areas they can catch haddock without damaging cod stocks, and persuade the European Commission to grant them extra days which would allow them to survive for the whole year.
They want independent observers on board vessels to allow them to provide the strongest possible evidence to the commission.
Mike Park, chairman of the SWFPA, said: "We need the co-operation of the Fisheries Research Services in Aberdeen and we need the co-operation of the Scottish Executive, who will correlate the figures. But more importantly, we need the approval of our peers such as the non-governmental organisations, of which WWF is one."
The European rules allow the fishermen to be at sea for 15 days a month, but they can spread their days over the year to take them over any period they choose.
It is anticipated that, for the next three months at least, the men will operate for around 22 days a month – the time they insist they are entitled to.
Mr Park said the possibility of going out of business by mid-year was real, but if they operated only 15 days a month at the moment the crews would leave and they would be out of business anyway.
In the meantime, the Scottish Fishermen's Federation is continuing with a legal challenge to the ruling.
Last night, the WWF backed the fishermen's proposals and the executive said it would be "sympathetic" to the fishermen's monitoring efforts.
Helen McLachlan, WWF's marine policy officer, said: "If there is a more sustainable option to the one currently in place, it must be investigated.
"If it can be demonstrated it is possible to fish for haddock in certain areas with a negligible by-catch of cod, and they carry independent observers to confirm this, we will support the fishermen in this effort to secure a sustainable future."
An executive spokesman said: "The fishing research service operates an extensive observation programme and we would be sympathetic to SWFPA requests for assistance."