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European fish proposals 'simply unacceptable'
The future of Scotland's West Coast fishing communities must not be put in peril by the European Commission, Maritime Commissioners Joe Burg will be told in Brussels today ahead of the Fisheries Council on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead will voice his and the industry's grave concerns over the EC's proposals for the West of Scotland as well as raising a range of other issues of importance.
Mr Lochhead will call for a major re-think when, along with the UK Government, he meets Commissioner Borg to stress that 'knee jerk' proposals to close the west of Scotland fisheries especially in the current economic climate are 'simply unacceptable'.
The Cabinet Secretary has also warned that the proposals amount to 'outrageous negotiating tactics' from the EC and harm relations between fishermen and EU policy makers.
Mr Lochhead said:
"We will vigorously resist these absurd and outrageous proposals. At a time of great economic uncertainty we should be doing everything in our power to support our our hard-pressed fishing communities - not destroy them.
"That is exactly why I am flying out to Brussels a day early to hold an urgent emergency meeting with Commissioner Borg - to try and help broker a solution.
"We acknowledge that there are some difficulties with west coast whitefish stocks but effectively closing the area to all trawl fisheries is completely disproportionate because of the potentially devastating effect on our valuable nephrops fleet.
"We are not looking to ignore the science on these stocks and are looking at measures which to help them recover.
"However, it is imperative that the measures taken do not close a vital sector of the Scottish fishing industry and the communities they serve from Campbeltown to Stornoway. We in Scotland have shown this year that there are much better ways of ensuring sustainable fisheries.
"We will continue to be positive and proactive in protecting recovering stocks. However, it is very testing indeed that the European Commission has chosen to propose such an extreme course of action without consultation and in such a limited timeframe.
"The proposed restrictions on whitefish would be a hammer blow to the nephrops fishery - the mainstay of the west coast fishing communities - and worth over £30 million.
"I am confident that Team Scotland's expertise can help us reach a more just deal and deliver some much-needed breathing room for our hard-pressed industry and coastal communities."
The EC published proposals on November 9 which would see the West of Scotland whitefish fishery closed up to a distance of 200 miles from the shore. The aim of the proposals is to give the West Coast whitefish stocks 'some breathing space' in light of recent very challenging scientific advice.
ICES (i.e. scientific) advice for West Coast haddock, cod, and whiting is for 'zero catch' or for the lowest possible catch.
Exceptions to this closure would be made for those fishing with pelagic nets (e.g. those in the West of Scotland herring fishery) and for those fishing for nephrops. However, as part of the proposals, nephrops fishermen would be forced to use a fishing gear of such selectivity that their fishing practices would likely become completely unviable.