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Fishermen poised for illegal action
Frank Urquhart

The Scotsman

31st January 2004

SCOTTISH trawlermen last night remained ready to break the law as they prepared to put to sea this weekend when the new North Sea catch restrictions come into force.

Skippers are planning to ignore the new permit system, controlling which parts of the North Sea they can land their catches, and the 15-days-a-month fishing regime which is due to come into effect tomorrow.

But the new regime appeared to be in turmoil yesterday because of ongoing talks aimed at securing 11th-hour adjustments to the controversial fishing deal.

The outcome of the negotiations between British government officials and the European Fisheries Commission is not expected to be announced until early next week. And there are hopes that the talks could result in the size of the so-called cod protection zone being reduced and changes being made to the percentages of haddock catches which will be permitted inside and outside the controlled areas.

Mike Park, the president of the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association, said skippers had no intention of co-operating with the new regime. And he revealed that, as far as he was aware, no Scottish skippers had even applied for the permits which they will require to fish outside the 40,000 square mile protection zone.

Under the rules, agreed at the fisheries council, skippers can only land 20 per cent of their mainstay haddock quota in the designated cod sensitive zone and the remaining 80 per cent outside the conservation area.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Executive said last night that only 11 skippers had applied for permits.

She added: "Arrangements are in place and we do not anticipate any major problems with the haddock permit system which comes into operation on Sunday. Fishermen are able to fish without a permit, but with reduced quota."