November 19, 2003



Scotland Fisheries Minister Oppose EU Curbs on Whitefish Catch

Ross Finnie, Scotland's fisheries minister, on Monday vowed to oppose catching curbs being imposed on Scotland's whitefish fleet next year.

The minister also backed proposals put forward by the Scottish Fishermen's Federation for an alternative cod-recovery plan aimed at ending the links between cod catches and stocks of haddock and prawn, the mainstay catches of the Scottish whitefish fleet.

His promise to fight for a sustainable future for the industry came at the penultimate gathering of the European Fisheries Council in Brussels before its meeting next month to decide landing quotas and catch restrictions for 2004.

Marine scientists from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas, which advises the European Union on fish quotas, have recommended a blanket moratorium on cod fishing in the North Sea and West of Scotland waters, but the European Commission's proposals is likely to be announced in December.

Mr Finnie, however, warned the commission against becoming locked into "draconian mechanisms" and called for a balanced approach to the recovery of endangered stocks.

He said: "We have to apply measures which reflect the scientific advice, both for the recovery of cod stocks and for the associated stocks which we know are relatively healthy. Fishing for stocks such as nephrops [prawns] and haddock need to be maintained at optimum levels - that is, we need to decouple the various stocks in the mixed fisheries to allow higher quotas for healthy stocks.

"Our approach must be workable, equitable and capable of delivering recovery of the stocks in trouble."

Mike Park, the president of the Scottish White Fish Producers' Association, welcomed his pledge. He said the industry was determined to win a package which would "decouple" cod from Scotland's mainstay catches of haddock, prawns and whiting and to secure an increased quota of haddock, whose stocks are their most abundant for 30 years.

Mr Park added: "Our goal is to get the principle accepted that there are areas of the North Sea where we can fish traditional stocks, like the haddock, in semi-isolation. The most important thing is to get enough days next year to catch the stock we are given and to be given enough stock so that communities are thriving again."