Scottish fishermen under threat

BY Sven R. Houston

Up to two thousand Scottish fishermen could lose their livelihood under a new EU proposal.

An annual summit is to be held in Brussels to determine the fishing restrictions for 2009, which aims to ban the fishing of cod, haddock and whiting off Scotland’s West coast.

Fishermen in the region agree that stock levels are alarmingly low and that actions must be taken, however, they insist the method being proposed could force them out of work.

Under the new proposal all boats will be required to use a ‘separating grid’ on their nets, which would essentially ensure that threatened species could escape the nets.

Uncertain future. Photo by Tina Norris/Rex
Uncertain future. Photo by Tina Norris/Rex

Bertie Armstrong, chairman of the Scottish Fisherman’s Federation, insists the smaller boats used in the region are incapable of accommodating such equipment:

“The proposal for separator grids for the fishery, which is the bread and butter of the West coast fleet, will effectively close fishing down on the West coast. This would be politically and economically unacceptable and will be opposed at industry, Scottish and UK government levels.”

Armstrong has instead called for a more ‘sensible’ approach that would still allow the threatened species to escape. He points to past stock-conserving initiatives by Scottish fishermen:

“We are calling on the EC to give due recognition of our efforts and to accept our alternative conservation proposals.”

A new plan also to take effect is aiming to sustain the cod levels, with the main feature being increased fishing quotas in return for a reduction in ‘discarding’. In other words, fishermen are being forced to severely cut down the amount of fish they throw back into the sea. This too, is met with concern by Armstrong:

“These recently agreed cod recovery measures will prove a major challenge for the Scottish fleet in 2009. We are committed to reducing discards but it is vital that the new rules are capable of practical application.”