Scheme to help preserve cod stocks


A landmark scheme that rewards fishermen who help conserve cod stocks with extra days at sea gets underway today.

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment Richard Lochhead announced the start of the Conservation Credits Scheme to mark Environment Week.

The ground-breaking initiative has been made possible thanks to an historic agreement with the European Union.

It introduces strict conservation measures such as the voluntary closure of areas when juvenile or spawning cod are encountered by boats and controls on net sizes.

In return for complying with these measures, fishermen will this year be able to have the same number of days at sea in 2008 as they had in 2007.

Announcing the start of the scheme, Mr Lochhead said:

"This scheme represents a new and sustainable approach to fishing in Scotland. Europe's go-ahead for this scheme recognises and rewards the responsible leadership our industry has shown towards conservation.

"For the first time the Scottish Government, working with the industry and conservationists, has been trusted to decide on the allocation of days at sea for its own fleet. Previously this was handled by Europe.

"We now need to show that trust is well-placed. It is time for Scotland to deliver and show the way forward. The eyes of Europe will be on us. There is a lot of hard work ahead but I believe together we can do it.

"The Conservation Credits Scheme helps us strike the balance between sustainable fishing and a thriving fishing industry. It is the perfect way to mark Environment Week.

"This Government promised a fresh start for Scotland's fishing industry and the communities it supports. We are now delivering on that promise."

Helen McLachlan, Senior Marine Policy Officer, WWF Scotland, said:

"This is a welcome step in the right direction. The Scottish fleet is leading the way with this initiative and we hope that this will form part of a wider package to help the rebuilding of North Sea cod stocks. Young cod need to stay in the water to spawn and we must find the most effective ways of achieving this. We look forward to monitoring progress throughout the year."

Bertie Armstrong, Chief Executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation said:

"The Scottish industry has played a full part with Scottish scientists and the Government in getting us to this point. We are happy that we now have a chance to show that we can rise to the challenges which this scheme will bring."

The Conservation Credits Scheme was approved by the EU on February 1, 2008.

Technical details of the Scottish Conservation Credits Scheme are available in a letter being sent to the fishing industry.

Environment Week is run by Scottish Environment LINK.