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EU Fisheries Policy
EU plans to reform the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) don't go nearly far enough, according to Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead, although the long-awaited opportunity to fix the current broken and damaging regime is to be welcomed.
The Scottish Government supports moves for a much clearer emphasis on fisheries conservation and a commitment to tackle the scandal of discards - however, some proposals are ill-fitting for the mixed fisheries the Scottish fleet operates within. Mr Lochhead has also highlighted the danger posed by the Commission's support for the international trading of fish quota.
Richard Lochhead said:
"The Common Fisheries Policy has taken decision making over our vast and rich fisheries away from Scotland and into the hands of Brussels, to the severe detriment of our fishing communities and fisheries conservation. That's why we must grasp this once in a generation chance for radical root-and-branch reform of European fisheries policy.
"I welcome the fact the EU has put forward long-awaited proposals for change, however they need to be a lot more radical if Brussels is not to repeat the many mistakes that have caused so much damage in recent decades.
"Thankfully, there is the opportunity to improve these initial proposals during the tough negotiations that lie ahead over the next two years. With implementation of a new policy planned for 2013, it's critical that Scotland's voice is heard in Europe so we can influence its development and bring our expertise to the table.
"I'm pleased that the meaningful conservation of stocks is set to be at the heart of a reformed CFP, with the ecological and economic madness of the discarding of marketable fish - currently enforced on our fishermen by the CFP - to be addressed. I am concerned, however, that a one-step move to a blanket ban on discards could prove counter-productive. Instead, we should be working with fishermen on practical measures that would stop these discarded fish being caught in the first place.
"There is also a huge threat to Scotland lurking within these proposals because, alarmingly, the Commission is advocating an expansion in the international trading of fishing quotas. Selling quota to Europe's highest bidders will erode Scotland's historic rights which in turn could spell doom for our fragile fishing communities. Our fishing rights would end up with faceless overseas-based multinationals, rather than in the hands of future generations of Scots fishermen.
"The Commission's proposal for regionalisation is a welcome start but they don't go far enough. In the complex mixed-fishery of the North Sea it makes sense for Scotland and other nations to have more control over their own fisheries, working in partnership with neighbouring maritime nations."
From the launch of the CFP in 1983 to the present day, the North Sea cod stock has reduced by 65 per cent: from 155,593 tonnes to 54,721t. In 2009, Scottish vessels were forced by the CFP to discard almost 28,000 tonnes of fish, around a quarter of the whitefish catch, valued at 33 million pounds.
Despite the CFP, progressive Scottish initiatives - developed in partnership between government and industry - have helped promote more sustainable fishing practices.
Through the Scottish Conservation Credits Scheme vessels are using more selective fishing gear to avoid catching undersized and unwanted fish and in return can spend extra time at sea. Scotland's catch quota trials with CCTV reward fishermen with increased quota provided there are no discards, enabling less fish to be fish taken from the sea while more can be landed to market.