SWFPA Chief, Mike Park has challenged the UK Government to find fishing opportunities for the Scottish fishing fleet

SWFPA Chief, Mike Park has challenged the UK Government to find fishing opportunities for the Scottish fishing fleet

Scottish White Fish Producers Association Chief, Mike Park has called on the UK Government to do more for the whitefish industry in Scotland after the news that fishing vessels will lose 10% off their cod quota in 2021. 

The Scottish fishing fleet’s already been suffering effects of COVID-19 and the Trade Cooperation Agreement between the EU and the UK that has devasted the fleet as the TCA means they can no longer swap quotas with their EU neighbours as they had previously done up until Brexit. 

Cod is a choke species and as a result a further cut in TAC in the North Sea the Scottish whitefish fleet could reach their limits within two months, meaning that boats would have to tie-up leaving unfished quota in other available species.

Mike Park says that the cut in cod quota will have a huge effect on the Scottish whitefish fleet and that the science is not keeping pace with the movement of fish stocks. On the TAC changes he said: 

Most of the, the allocations, we knew what the outcome would be but we’re a bit is disappointed that the cod TAC (total allowable catch) decreased 10% from last year. That’s extremely hard to take when we are seeing high abundance of cod in the Shetland Basin, and the problem for us there is that science inot keep keeping pace with regime shift.

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“Whereas the cod used to swim throughout the North Sea, they are pretty much focused on the Northern North Sea now which means that the mechanism for evaluating the stock sizes is out of sync with reality and the regime shift has outpaced. 

Mike said that Defra released a paper recently that showed the centre of catching cod was moving northwards at a rate of about around 12 kilometres a year which is an extremely fast. 

Fishermen are spending more time avoiding catching fish than actually fishing as a result of the introduction of the Cod Protection Plan, says the SWFPA chief and this has added more issues for boats with the Landing Obligation pretty much dictating that boats need to catch mixed species in a proportionate way, or else they are breaking the conditions of the Landing Obligation. 

“We are finding it extremely difficult to maintain balance in terms of the species and the catch to ensure we don’t breach the landing obligation,” says Mike.  “We have become pretty inefficient tools because rather than pursuing fishing we got to pursue partial fishing in alignment with the quotas available to us.” 

Asked if the increase in TAC in whiting and haddock is of any benefit to the whitefish fleet Mike says that what they have gained in the North Sea and West of Scotland, the boats have lost at Rockall. Another added pressure is the unlikelihood of a deal with the Faroe Islands which will see the fleet lose fishing there.  

Mike also sees issues in the Norwegian waters with the EU and Norway having concluded a bilateral fisheries deal. 

“The Danish fleet are now into the Norwegian sector ahead of us. They are getting in to all the fishing areas that haven’t been fished for three months. 

“Generally speaking, we just don’t have enough fish in the system though, which is an outcome of that the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. We are just bereft of opportunities. 

Mike fears for the future of the whitefish fleet and says he can see the consolidation or business failure becoming a reality. 

“In some cases, there’s just not enough fish for some of our vessels to sea,” a stark reality of what is on the industry’s doorstep.  

In previos years, many boats were relying heavily on fishing quotas being brought in through the Fish Producers system from other Member States, but that is no longer there as the UK is now a third country to the EU. 

Mike believes the Scottish whitefish fleet needs the UK Government to intervene and use some of funding it has allocated to improve fishing opportunities for the boats.

“It’s within the Government’s to use some of this a £100 million to go and try to purchase opportunities in countries like Iceland, GreenlandWe’ve got a number of vessels that can fish Iceland. So, I guess it’s up to political resolve to see if they are a willingness step in and support that industry that they largely ignored in setting the deal with the EU. 

“From my organisation, there would be a call on Boris Johnson to use some of the £100 million that is set aside for the industry and that he himself said was ‘To improve and modernize the fishing industry 

Well, you cannot modernize us because you know what? There’s too much capacity up here as it stands, but you could use some of that money to go and purchase opportunities for the Scottish fishing fleet. 

 By Oliver McBride 

Scottish Government –

The value to Scotland of the negotiating success is £101.6 million, which is an increase of £9.5 million from last year.  The TAC changes are as follows: 

  • Whiting + 19.1% 
  • Plaice – 2.3% 
  • Saithe – 25% 
  • North Sea Cod – 10% 
  • Haddock + 20% 
  • North Sea Herring -7.4% 
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