SCOTTISH Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead is to meet with the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association in Aberdeen today.
The meeting takes place ahead of further mackerel negotiations next month between the EU, Norway, Iceland and Faroe Islands, with the aim of achieving a new international agreement for 2012.
Mr Lochhead said: I have always been very clear that the Scottish Government’s main priority from the mackerel negotiations is to achieve an international agreement that will safeguard the future of the stock and therefore the viability of the industry.
“However, I have also been categorical in that we cannot do a deal at any price and the bullying tactics of Iceland and the Faroes, in setting their own huge quotas, cannot be rewarded.
“If the excessive mackerel fishing we have seen from Faroes and Iceland continues, we face the possibility of the stock falling below safe limits as early as 2014.
“We recognise Iceland as a coastal state with a right to a share of the mackerel fishery, however they must be prepared to negotiate reasonably because a sustainable mackerel stock is in all our interests.
“Given the seriousness of the situation, the sanctions promised by the Commission must be tabled as soon as possible, to demonstrate the Commission’s resolve to respond robustly to the irresponsible actions of Iceland and Faroes.”
Mr Lochhead is also seeking urgent clarification from the European Commission over “confusing” figures published yesterday that indicate Scottish vessels will need to further reduce fishing effort.
Mr Lochhead said: “The Scottish Government is aware of this decision by the European Commission and along with the UK Government has sought urgent clarification from them on the confusing figures they have published.
“It would be absolute madness to provide our fleet with more quota next year for some of our key stocks but then stop our fishermen leaving port to catch them.
“Cod only makes up around 5 per cent in value of Scotland’s catch. The other 95 per cent is made up of other types of fish. So it cannot be right to be reducing the days at sea available to catch that other 95 per cent.
“This is an issue that will affect Scottish, English and Northern Irish vessels. We, and the rest of the UK, have reported the way we are operating this rule to them on an annual basis for the past three years, and have been managing the recovery of cod stocks responsibly over the past three years. Indeed, Scotland is being praised internationally for our cod avoidance measures which are making a real difference.
“Unfortunately, as is often the case, decisions are made in Brussels without due consideration of their impact on individual nations. That is why the flawed Common Fisheries Policy has been discredited by everyone including, ironically, the European Commission itself.
“I am in regular discussions with my UK counterpart Richard Benyon and we will be seeking an urgent meeting with Commissioner Damanaki to sort this latest mess.”