Angry Scots fishermen lose out in German swap deal

SCOTLAND'S most powerful fish producers' organisation accused the UK government yesterday of "breathtaking arrogance" over the controversial decision to swap almost £2 million of the North Sea's lucrative prawn catch to prevent trawlermen in the south of England being driven out of business.

The deal, brokered last week by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and backed by Ross Finnie, Scotland's environment minister, has resulted in German prawn fishermen receiving 375 tonnes of the UK's share of the North Sea langoustine catch in return for 150 tonnes of sole which will be used to aid 160 English boats operating in the southern North Sea.

The English trawlermen faced losing their livelihoods because of new European Union restrictions on their catches of endangered skate and ray.

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George MacRae, the secretary of the Scottish White Fish Producers' Association, said there was mounting anger and frustration at the implications of the deal, which was rushed through without consultation with the Scottish fleet.

Mr MacRae, whose organisation represents most Scottish prawn boats, said: "You have to ask if the government has lost the plot completely."

A spokesman for DEFRA said: "Without urgent action, 160 fishing boats stood to directly lose their livelihoods and go out of business because the restrictions were giving them such problems. We had move very quickly.

"Due to the urgency of the situation, there wasn't the time to consult the industry as we would normally do."