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Portfolio Environment

Common Fisheries Policy A positive influence

Lynne Whitelaw Environment Correspondent

A look at Scotland’s role in delivering change on fisheries management

When the European Commission publishes proposals for reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) in July, the road ahead for the Scottish fishing fleet will finally become clearer. Whether the reformed CFP will actually

make the outlook for the industry better is something that remains to be seen. When a draft of the proposals was leaked in May this year, they were met with a mixed response. While most interested parties, including the Scottish Government, welcomed moves toward decentralisation there were other aspects of the plan that caused concern. Te EC’s Green Paper on CFP reform in

April 2009 stated that the issue of discarding dead fish back into the sea had to be addressed with urgency, and since then the issue has risen in prominence in the UK, in part due to a campaign by TV chef Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall. Under the current system, fishermen are penalised for landing more fish than their quota allocation allows and the industry argues that dumping fish is their only option. However, the draft proposals for a blanket ban on discards to get stocks up to a sustainable level by 2015 have been criticised by scientists and industry. While scientists say they won’t go far enough to make up for years of over fishing, industry says they could be unworkable. Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the

Scottish Fishermen’s Federation described the blanket ban as the “bluntest of blunt instruments”. “No fisherman can say, ‘I will go out

today and I will catch only haddock’ - that’s just impossible - and under the present regulations, the only way is to stop fishing when you reach your first quota,” he said. But the proposal currently causing the

most controversy has been the potential introduction of Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQs) that would be awarded to fishing vessels and could be traded with other countries. Environmentalists have reacted

58 Holyrood 13 June 2011

Commissioner Damanaki and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

launch the European Fish Fight campaign in Brussels

to this negatively, with Markus Knigge, policy and research director of the European Marine Programme at Pew Charitable Trust describing it as “virtual privatisation of the oceans”. Scottish Government Fisheries Secretary

Richard Lochhead also believes that if this is contained in the final policy proposals, it will have a negative impact on Scotland. “Te last thing Scotland wants to see is a proposal that would allow our historic fishing

“The last thing Scotland wants is fishing

opportunities to be bought and sold like sweeties in the shop”

opportunities to be bought and sold like sweeties in the shop,” he says. “Tat would be, perhaps, good news

for multinationals but not for our fishing communities who should always be given the right to fish the stocks in Scottish waters and no generation of fishermen or any government should be given the right to sell off historic fishing rights.” If the proposals for ITQs are included in

the EC’s July paper, there will still be time to argue for change to be made before the full CFP proposals are decided in December

2012. However, this is a much more difficult process than influencing policy before proposals have been outlined. Although the majority of the UK’s fishing

industry is located in Scotland, because it is part of the UK delegation at EU level, getting the Scottish viewpoint across during the CFP negotiations is not a straightforward process. Early engagement is vital, and since 2009 work to influence proposals by telling the Scottish story has been carried out by MEPs and the Scottish Government’s Brussels office. Te fact that Scotland has worked hard

to introduce new measures on species conservation has helped make the country’s voice heard; having good quality ideas based on working examples is seen as a vital part of the process. Te Catch Quota Scheme has been one

of those positive measures. Te EC gave permission for it to be piloted by 17 Scottish fishing boats last year, and this year, it has been expanded to include around 40. Vessels are allowed to land all the cod they catch after filling their original quota in return for having their boats fitted with monitoring equipment to ensure fishermen are not breaking the rules. “Tere’s no doubt that the commission and other member states have sat up and taken notice of what’s happening in Scotland and there has been international recognition of the fact that Scotland has blazed a trail in terms of fisheries conservation,” says Lochhead. SNP MEP Ian Hudgton, who sits on the

© European Union 2011

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