New plans being put forward by the European Commission on fishing quotas will inflict a "devastating blow" to Scotland's fishing industry, according to the Scottish Fishermen's Federation.
The new European Commissioner on Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, yesterday proposed cuts in fishing quotas in Scottish waters for 2011. She said, "We must not lose sight of the basic facts. The amount of fish in the sea is limited and the amount of fish that can be caught each year without putting the future of the stocks at risk is limited too. Each year we ask scientists to tell us what those limits are. The Commission is basing its proposal on that advice."
"I am keen to see the EU meet the World Summit on Sustainable Development target of exploiting fish stocks according to their maximum sustainable yields by 2015. That deadline is not far off and we need to start moving now. Clearly, science-based decisions are the only way to help rebuild fish stocks to levels that will sustain a healthy and profitable EU fishing industry. I regret to say there will be disappointing news on some quota levels, but past experience has shown that those who think they can negotiate with nature will not have a long future in fishing."
Under the plans the amount of prawns that fishermen will be able to catch will be cut by nine per cent in the North Sea and by 15 per cent on the west coast of Scotland.
The haul of haddock will have to be cut by 25 per cent on the west coast of Scotland, while cod in those waters face cuts of 50 per cent.
Quotas on cod and haddock in the North Sea, which Scotland shares as a fishing area with Norway, have yet to be decided but look likely to face cuts as well, despite haddock in the North Sea being certified as a well managed and sustainable fishery by the Marine Stewardship.
Bertie Armstrong, Chief Executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, said, "The European Commission's proposals for fish catching opportunity for 2011 - the first on new Commissioner Maria Damanaki's watch - which will affect the Scottish fleet, have been released to the press, which shows that the principle adopted by the last Commissioner of dialogue and transparency with stakeholders - known as 'frontloading' has been abandoned. The fishing industry has been left to find out from the media what next year's opportunity will be and this is totally unacceptable.
"The list of proposals - reductions across the list of stocks covered - is only part of the picture for the Scottish fleet and next week will see the EU negotiate on our behalf for seven important shared stocks, including North Sea cod, but the approach that will be taken by the Commission has been telegraphed clearly and we can expect little comfort.
"The press descriptions put out with the first proposals and the method of release are a study in arrogance. The Scottish industry understands with the utmost clarity that the amount of fish in the sea is limited. It also understands that the current methods of managing fisheries are a recipe for discarding. No account has been taken in any of these proposals of the innovation and sacrifices made by the Scottish fleet in pursuit of sensible management. This simply must change."