Cuts in cod quota will threaten Scottish sustainable fishing, warns Richard Lochhead

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CONTROVERSIAL proposals for a 20 per cent cut in the cod quota will lead to more fish being needlessly dumped at sea, Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead warned the Scottish Parliament today.

He claimed the draconian cuts would leave a “trail of discards across North Sea” and threaten the sustainable fishing practices of Scottish fishermen.

The cod reduction is being proposed by the European Commission and is due to be debated at a crucial meeting of the European Fisheries Council later this month.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Mr Lochhead declared: “Cutting the cod quota by 20 per cent is a straightforward recipe for massive discards. Our fishermen won’t be able to avoid catching every more plentiful cod for which they have no quota and will be forced – against their will – to dump dead overboard.

“The Cod Recovery Plan is supposed to promote conservation, yet through inflexible year-on-year quota cuts it threatens to leave an ever widening trail of discards across the North Sea. It beggars belief that a plan to conserve cod could be the cause of the exact opposite and that’s why it is vital we maintain current catch limits in 2013.”

Mr Lochhead continued: “Scotland has put forward a sound scientific case for maintaining cod landings at this year’s level, avoiding discards while still achieving a healthy recovery of the stock by 2015. That’s why at this month’s end of year negotiations in Brussels I will be demanding that the North Sea cod quota is rolled over next year.

“It’s vital that we find a way out of the straight jacket imposed by the cod plan so we can avoid discards, which we all agree – fishermen, the public and politicians – is an obscene waste and damning indictment of the failure of EU fishing policy.”

Liam McArthur, the MSP for Orkney, also voiced his concern about a proposed 20 per cent cut in the lucrative monkfish quota.

He said: “Fishermen await the outcome of the annual negotiations in Brussels with a mixture of dread and resignation. This year will be no different, with severe cuts proposed to a number of important stocks for the Scottish and Orkney fleets.

“To make matters worse, a turf war appears to have broken out between the Commission, MEPs and member states over what should happen and who should decide. The only thing certain is that it will be fishermen who lose out if this pointless squabble is not resolved.

“With cuts in quotas and the time available to catch them, the prospects from this year’s negotiations look bleak. This is the last thing Orkney’s hard-pressed whitefish fleet need at present.”