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Report to call for more fish cuts


21st March 2004

A new fish quota deal was agreed by Europe in December

Photo “Cod in Ice” © Kirby

Further serious cuts to Scotland's fishing fleet are expected to be recommended by the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit. Policy advisers have been asked to come up with plans to secure the long-term future of the UK fishing industry.

BBC Scotland has learned that this could mean more short-term pain for the industry north of the border.

The advisers, who are due to publish a report on Thursday, may be looking for cuts in capacity of up to 15%.

In addition, there may be recommendations for a substantial tie-up of boats to reduce pressure on struggling cod stocks.

Looking ahead

The eventual aim would be to produce a modern, efficient fleet and plenty of fish in the sea.

Number 10's strategy unit was asked to look ahead by as much as a decade in their efforts to find a long-term solution.

The report will provide advice rather than policy, but could still prove difficult politically.

The current European fishing deal to protect stocks limits Scottish fishing boats to 15 days a month in the North Sea.

“It is a spectacular piece of incompetence” ~ Alex Salmond ~ Scottish National Party MP

However, it was agreed the fleet could catch 30% more prawns and 53% more haddock.

Scottish National Party MP Alex Salmond promised to fight any further reductions in the size of the fleet.

He said: "If there are any other cuts in the fleet then what happens is not an optimistic future.

"What you get is a collapse of the infrastructure on which the fleet depends.

"There is no need for this, it is a spectacular piece of incompetence."

He also claimed that those in the strategy unit compared badly with the "people of vast knowledge" who produced a "weighty" report for the Royal Society.

'Draconian' cuts

"When I was talking to the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit, it was like teaching kindergarten.

"I think there are far more teenage scribblers in the unit than people suppose," he said.

Scottish Conservative fishing spokesman Ted Brocklebank said Downing Street was proposing "draconian" cuts.

He and other leading Tories will be meeting fishermen's leaders on Monday to discuss the way forward for the industry.

"Meanwhile, this government seems to be planning its funeral," he said.