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Scottish fleets consulted on days at sea
The Scottish fishing sector is being urged to help shape the format of a new Scottish days at sea scheme.
The Scottish Government today issued a consultation paper to skippers asking how days at sea should be allocated to Scottish fishing vessels.
Under the European Union's new cod recovery plan, member states receive national 'pots' of fishing effort and are free to decide how to allocate days to individual vessels. This is a change from previous years, when EU regulations set day limits for each type of fishing vessel.
Because of this important change, the Government has agreed with the fishing industry that it is right to consult individual skippers on how the new system should work.
Since the beginning of February 2009 an interim scheme has been operating. This finishes on April 30.
Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said:
"We want to hear from the skippers affected by the days at sea regime. The EU's cod recovery plan set tough new standards for reducing cod mortality in the seas around Scotland. The EU's orginal proposal to achieve these reductions was to cut days at sea for all Scottish vessels by 25 per cent.
"We've worked closely with the industry to avoid these cuts. And in the interim period over two thirds of Scottish vessels have been allocated more days at sea than they used last year
"We've been able to avoid the cuts by coming up with innovative ways of reducing cod mortality. These include increasing dramatically our programme of real time closures, which keep fishing vessels out of areas of cod abundance. Scottish fishing vessels can also buy back days by using new more selective fishing gear.
"The 2009 scheme builds on the success of last year's scheme - allowing skippers to top up their basic days at sea allocation by adopting further optional conservation measures. There are undoubtedly challenges facing the industry, but the alternatives would have been unpalatable.
"I want now to work with industry to come up with a new system for the long term that keeps costs for the active industry to a minimum. That's more important than ever before in the current economic climate.
"Our industry has demonstrated responsible leadership when it comes to conservation measures, now they have a key role to play in deciding the right system for Scotland."
The days at sea regime exists as part of the EU's cod recovery plan, which limits time at sea for fishing vessels that are involved in catching cod in the waters around Scotland. The Scottish Government's Conservation Credits scheme is Scotland's system for allocating these limited days to Scottish fishing vessels. The scheme is managed by a steering group that includes fishing industry representatives, scientists, environmental organisations and Government officials.
The new EU cod recovery plan, agreed last year, includes targets to reduce substantially cod mortality caused by fishing. To achieve this, the European Commission proposed a 25 per cent reduction in days at sea for Scottish fishing vessels. The Scottish Government was able to secure a deal that allowed cuts in days at sea to be avoided if vessels adopted new conservation measures. The Government has been working with the industry to develop these measures, like the use of more selective fishing gears that allow more fish to escape.
As part of the new plan, EU Member States are now responsible for allocating days at sea to vessels. This is what this consultation is about and it is taking place because the fishing industry thought that individual skippers should be consulted about a new system that affects them. The consultation paper asks skippers whether they would prefer days at sea to be allocated on a flat rate - the same allocation for each vessel of the same type - or on an historic basis, taking into account each vessel's fishing in previous years. The consultation closes on April 3.