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Cautious welcome to new haddock quota proposals

The Buchan Observer

4th April 2004

SCOTS fishermen have given a cautious welcome to moves aimed at allowing them to catch more haddock in UK waters.
The controversial fisheries deal thrashed out in Brussels in December last year has now been partly renegotiated, allowing the beleaguered whitefish fleet access to more haddock.

Changes to the European allocation were announced on Thursday by Deputy Fisheries Minister Allan Wilson.

The new regime will also see an end to penalising boats that take time out for fishing to go to the aid of a stricken vessels. And moves to introduce changes to the days-at-sea regime are also under negotiation in Brussels.

Mr Wilson told MSPs that the size of the cod-protection area would be reduced under the new regulations, with the proportion of the quota which can be caught inside the area rising from 20 to 35 percent.

The fleet's total allowable catch will also be increased from 32,000 tonnes to 45,400 tonnes.

"This will allow the fleet access to additional haddock quota more easily and is what the industry asked for," said Mr Wilson.

However, he emphasised that negotiations were still ongoing in Brussels and it would be "unhelpful" of him to make a full statement.

Commenting on the changes announced today [Friday] to the Fisheries Council deal agreed to last December – for which Scottish fishermen, fishing communities, and their representatives have been campaigning, Banff & Buchan MP, Alex Salmond said, "This is welcome news, and vindicates the stance taken by fishermen, fishing communities and their representatives in demanding changes to the disastrous December Fisheries Council deal. The December deal will surely go down as the worst worked out in the sorry history of the Common Fisheries Policy.”

“The re-opening of fishing grounds will mean that the enforced throwing back of quality fish dead into the sea can now stop, but it is important that these changes are made retrospective and that the mistakes of the past three months are taken into account, so that fishermen are given a fair allocation and access for the whole year. Otherwise, there is a very real danger of the fishing grounds being closed again in the autumn.”

“UK Fisheries Ministers should have been able to negotiate a bonanza for Scottish fishermen last December - instead they came away with a disaster. Having dug themselves into a hole, at least the Government are now beginning to climb out of it”.

SNP Shadow Fisheries Minister Richard Lochhead MSP said: "This climb down is a direct result of fishermen and fishing communities refusing to accept the mad and bad deal that the UK signed up to in Brussels last December - which was riddled with mistakes, but there remains the problem of days at sea restrictions, and the discrimination against the Scottish fishing fleet.”
“Scottish fishermen need the time and the space to build a sustainable fishery, which can access the stocks that are there and will support our communities around the coastline of Scotland”.

Welcoming the new deal, SNP fisheries spokesman Richard Lochhead said the changes were a step forward but there will still a long way to up, while Tory spokesman Ted Brocklebank said it was “too little, too late”.

Cod crusader, Carol Macdonald, also questioned the credibility of the original scientific evidence, given the need for amendments to the deal.
“This surely is another joke and is an insult to our fishing industry and the communities which are dependent on it,” she said.