Time to turn pain into gain for Scottish fishermen

It has been confirmed today that after years of decommissioning and job losses, fish stocks in waters around Scotland are improving.

In a submission by the European Commission, statistics showed that only 18 out of 38 stocks in 2011 were overfished, compared to 32 out of 34 stocks in 2004.

Scottish Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson, who is Senior Vice President of the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee, said the improving picture was hugely down to the sacrifices made by Scottish fishermen, who have reduced their number of vessels by 60 per cent at a time when other EU countries are expanding theirs.

Mr Stevenson has now called for other countries to follow suit and finally allow Scottish fishing fleets to enjoy some benefits, and he has been joined in his plea by Scottish Conservative MSPs in Holyrood.

Scottish Conservative MEP for Scotland Struan Stevenson said:
“While it would be foolish to pretend that everything in the marine environment is rosy, it is time for a more realistic appraisal of where our oceans are going.

“It is worth remembering that the UK demersal fleet, most of it in Scotland, has seen around 60 per cent of its vessels scrapped or decommissioned over the past ten years.

“It has been stated that the EU fleet is two or three times the size required to catch the available fishing quotas – but it is time to point the gun elsewhere.

“We’ve done our bit. With ten years of vessel decommissioning, enforced tie-ups, savage cuts to total allowable catches (TACs) and quotas, technical measures like mesh sizes and special fishing gears, limits to the days that fishermen can go to sea, designated ports, electronic log books, vessel monitoring by satellite and 1001 other laws and regulations, our fishermen have taken the pain.

“Now we want to see some gain – we need to know that all the cuts, lost jobs, low wages and poor profits were, at the end of the day, for a positive purpose.

“It would be a great surprise if all the sacrifices of the UK and Scottish fleet over the past decade had not yielded positive results.

“It is time for other member states to follow suit. Scotland’s fishermen should be rewarded with increased blue whiting, haddock and herring quota.

“This meeting should reward those who have made the biggest efforts to fish sustainably and hit hard those who have failed.”

Scottish Conservative Environment Spokesman Jamie McGrigor MSP said:

“Our general position on CFP reform has been consistent - that the policy needs fundamental reform so that the disastrous bureaucratic micro-management at EU level is replaced by flexible regional and local management.

“We also want to see a reduction in discards and want to see conservation interests and the industry working in co-operation.

“The Scottish Conservatives also fully recognise and value the very significant progress Scottish fishermen have already made in terms of conservation efforts – they have led the way in Europe on this and I moved an amendment on this very fact which was accepted by the Scottish Parliament last week.”