Scottish gains at Euro fish talks


Talks to decide fish quotas at the December Fisheries Council have achieved results for the highest value stocks: North Sea prawns, monkfish and megrim.

Despite the recent postponement of the EU-Norway negotiations, interim quotas have also been agreed for stocks such as North Sea cod, North Sea haddock and mackerel to ensure fishermen can continue to go to sea while the talks are concluded.

The Council has also given the green light for 'catch less, land more' trials, which Scotland has been promoting as a way of rewarding fishermen for their conservation efforts. In return for catching and discarding less, fishermen will be allowed to land and earn more.

The headline results from the talks are:

  • a rollover of quota for the £46.9 million North Sea prawn (nephrops) industry, part of Scotland's most valuable fleet
  • a 10 per cent increase for megrim and a rollover for monkfish - two of the highest value species; flexibility in the monkfish quota will allow west coast fishermen to catch an additional 460 tonnes
  • a 25 per cent cut in west coast haddock (instead of the proposed 54 per cent reduction)
  • a 15 per cent cut in the west coast prawn quota
  • 'catch less, land more' trials to tackle discards and boost profitability
  • previously agreed cuts to days in sea, although an exemption has been secured for 40 per cent of the west coast prawn fleet (a total of 67 boats)
  • agreement from the European Commission to look again at the emergency technical measures re-imposed on the west coast at the November Council

In Brussels Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said:

"Given the challenging backdrop, these were always going to be tough talks. We have fought hard for our fishermen and the outcome will offer some degree of comfort to parts of our industry.

"After long negotiations, working with the UK, we have achieved gains for some of our most valuable stocks and secured interim arrangements to ensure stocks shared with Norway can still be fished.

"We have also secured support for 'catch less, land more' trials - another example of Scotland showing international leadership on conservation.

"We do not pretend that life will be any less tough for some vessels, particularly in the whitefish sector. Further cuts in days at sea, agreed before this Council, will be challenging but as we did last year we will work with our fishermen to enable them to buy back days in return for signing up to conservation measures. Quota cuts, on top of draconian technical measures re-imposed in November, will make life difficult on the west coast but we have successfully negotiated action to ease the pain, including days at sea exemptions, quota flexibility and a re-examination of the emergency measures.

"We will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the industry to support them through these difficult times. In the new year we will begin working with them on the detail of a longer-term recovery plan and we will increase our efforts to return more decision-making powers to Scotland. Fishing policy made in Brussels is bad for Scotland and we will shortly be setting out our response to proposals for European fisheries policy."

The key Scottish stocks for which quotas have been agreed today are (value of 2008 landings in brackets):

Prawns (nephrops) (£95.5 million)

  • Highest value fleet (based on landings) and highest value species (based on price)
  • 0.6 percent reduction (effectively a rollover) for North Sea
  • 15 per cent reduction for west coast (as the fleet only fished 60-65 per cent of its quota this year this will have no economic impact)

Monkfish (£28.2 million)

  • Fourth highest value fleet (landings) and second highest value species (price)
  • Rollover plus flexibility to move up to five per cent of quota between North Sea and west coast, meaning an additional 460 tonnes can be caught in the west

Megrim (£6.9 million)

  • Third highest value species (price)
  • 10 per cent increase

West coast haddock (£2 million)

  • Second highest value fleet (landings, North Sea and west coast)
  • Commission proposed a 54 per cent cut in 2010 but has agreed to phasing this in over two years, with a 25 per cent reduction in the first year

This year the EU-Norway talks have not concluded which means quotas will not be finalised at Council for certain stocks.

However, interim quotas have been agreed today to ensure fishermen can continue to fish from January 1. The talks are due to resume in January and quotas will be agreed for the following stocks (value of 2008 landings in brackets):

  • Mackerel (£64.6 million)
  • North Sea haddock (£27.9 million)
  • North Sea cod (£14.7 million)
  • North Sea herring (£8.23 million)