THE annual Brussels late-night rammy over fish quota allocations has become as regular a feature in the December calendar as Christmas.
Scientists advise bureaucrats, who then leave it to a political carve-up to allocate species quotas for the coming year. But it should be all change soon for the much-derided Common Fisheries Policy.
The European Parliament fisheries committee has voted for a raft of radical changes from 2014, including the long-overdue outlawing of discards. The scandalous practice of throwing back and wasting large numbers of fish caught at sea has directly contributed towards the catastrophic drop in certain stocks.
Ending discards alone won’t solve that, but it’s a good start for stock conservation. Net size must also be addressed.
The deal struck in Brussels is good for Scottish fishermen, who live treacherous lives, going out in all conditions so we can have fish on the table.
It should also bring more localised decision making, shifting power over technical and conservation measures away from Brussels and to Scotland, where it belongs.
It’s important that proposals for transferable quotas have been rejected. This would have handed power to the big trawler operators that are able to use their financial muscle to buy fishing rights from the small independents.
And in the meantime at the Fisheries Council, Richard Lochhead, Scotland’s fisheries secretary, saw off threats to cut next year’s cod quotas by 20 per cent and further slash the number of days at sea.
I buy fish every day. I know and respect what Scottish fishermen go through to get the fish I serve in my restaurant. Recent storm damage in fishing communities reminds us of this. So many brave fishermen have lost their lives in this most dangerous, yet rewarding, of jobs. They care about fish quality and have a long-term vested interest in sustainable management of fish stocks.
This decision will lift the spirits of beleaguered fishing communities, and that is good for all of us.
The battle for a better future for fishermen, and the fish they catch, hasn’t yet been won. But, for once, Brussels is on the right track.
• Roy Brett is head chef at Ondine restaurant.