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5 December, 2008

EUROPEAN fisheries commissioner Joe Borg yesterday (Thursday) reassured fishermen they could expect a 30 per cent increase in next year’s cod quota at this month’s crunch talks.

Northern isles MP Alistair Carmichael and fellow LibDem Borders MP Michael Moore met Mr Borg in Brussels to tell him they did not want the larger quota to be tied to a reduction in fishing effort.

Mr Carmichael described yesterday’s meeting as “highly productive”, boding well for next week’s crucial EU/Norway negotiations on catches in the North Sea and the ensuing EC fisheries council which sets quotas.

The Norwegians are pressing for an all out ban on discards, which is pressurising the EC to allow more cod to be caught to avoid wastage at sea.

Pressure from Brussels to severely limit fishing off Scotland’s west coast was also “not a done deal”, according to Mr Carmichael, who said the commissioner was prepared to listen to the industry’s concerns on this issue.

Fishermen are attempting to reduce restrictions on the west coast by running sea trials designed to limit the cod catch. These are being led by Orkney man Tam Harcus on his 2,000 horse power Russataing,

Shetland’s fishermen are looking at carrying out their own sea trials next year using nets more suited to their smaller white fish boats.

Speaking shortly after returning to London from Brussels yesterday afternoon, Mr Carmichael said any fishing restrictions west of Scotland could impact the Shetland fleet by displacing vessels working out of Orkney and mainland Scotland.

He said Mr Borg was prepared to work with the west coast trials if they could be shown to be having an effect. “If he can be persuaded the industry is taking the problem seriously he will work them,” he said.

He added that the commissioner said a 30 per cent increase in the cod quota was on the cards. “That’s the first time I have heard him speak of it and I find that in itself quite encouraging. It’s a strong signal that there’s some sense coming back into North Sea fisheries management.”

Shetland Fishermen’s Association chief executive Hansen Black was meeting with fishing leaders in Edinburgh yesterday to discuss the way forward on minimising quota restrictions for the Scottish fleet.

He said that an increase in the cod TAC will be welcome, but he feared there would be “a number of strings attached to it”, which would emerge in the fullness of time.

Most recent update - Saturday, 20 December 2008 00:07
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