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 Sunday, 22 December, 2002, 01:42 GMT
Anger mounts over fishing cutbacks
Fishing boats at North Shields
Boats will be spending more time in dock next year
Radical cuts in fishing quotas imposed by the European Union will devastate the UK's fishing communities, fishermen have warned.

They say a deal struck by European fisheries ministers aimed at saving depleted stocks is "draconian" and could cost thousands of jobs.

Some fishermen have threatened to defy the ban and put to sea to avoid going bankrupt.

The agreement reached in Brussels limits fishing vessels to 15 days per month at sea and slashes cod catches by 45% next year.

Fisheries Minister Elliot Morley defended taking the "drastic" action to preserve cod stocks for the future.

It's not just an economic disaster, it's a community disaster

Raymond Bisset

Sam Weller, 52, a fish merchant in Grimsby said it would be impossible to keep a boat running while working so few days.

"It's like asking farmers or any other industry to work 15 days a month - it's just not possible," he said.

"It's not just the running expenses of the boat whilst it's at sea, but to keep it running whilst it's in the docks can be just as expensive."

'Anger and disbelief'

Scottish councillor Raymond Bisset said the cuts would decimate the community of Fraserburgh he represents.

He said: "It's not just an economic disaster, it's a community disaster.

"Fraserburgh is the most fishing-dependent town in Britain.

"I don't think at the end we expected such draconian measures - it defies all logic."

John Swinney, the SNP leader in Scotland, said the measures would "finish off" the Scottish fishing industry.

Graph showing stocks of cod since 1963
John Buchan, based in the Scottish port of Peterhead, said fishermen felt let down by the British fisheries ministers.

He said: "There's a mixture of anger, worry and disbelief.

"People can't believe this has happened to possibly the hardest working industry in the country.

"The one thing you can be sure of is boats will go to sea and catch fish rather than go bankrupt."

Open in new window : An end to fishing?
How one family has seen its livelihood dry up

He called for a comprehensive package of compensation to cover boats being tied up to protect the livelihoods of fishermen in the future.

"You've got to protect stocks, but you've also got to protect fishermen.

"There's no point having a sea teeming with fish if there are no fishermen to catch them," he said.

Fishermen are not convinced white fish stocks are in the dire straits the EU scientists claim.

The agreement
UK white fish vessels restricted to 15 days at sea each month
45% cut in cod catches from 49,300 tonnes to 27,300 tonnes
50% cut in haddock catches from 104,000 tonnes to 51,000 tonnes
60% cut in whiting catches from 41,000 tonnes to 16,000 tonnes
Fish auctioneer Kurt Christensen, 50, from Grimsby, believes the quotas decision was made on political grounds rather than environmental.

"Fish stocks are in a better state than the government would have us believe," he said.

The EU initially proposed a 80% cut in cod fishing but that was reduced after direct pressure from the UK Government.

Mr Morley conceded the impact of the cuts would be "very hard" but he told BBC News: "What you cannot do is ignore the trend in cod, which has been downwards for many years."

Environmentalists said the cuts do not go far enough.

Julie Cator, of the Worldwide Fund for Nature, said: "Today's package is bad news for cod stocks in the North Sea and really could be the death penalty."

Scientist Prof Monty Priede, of Aberdeen University, said the action might be too late.

"There's a risk that biologically the fish stock could collapse at any moment despite our good intentions," he said.

  The BBC's Pallab Ghosh
"The industry employs a third of the people in this small town"
  Elliot Morley, Fisheries Minister
"It is inevitable that the outcome was going to be very difficult"
  John Hall, Trawler owner
"We just can't survive"

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21 Dec 02 | Scotland
20 Dec 02 | Scotland
19 Dec 02 | Europe
18 Dec 02 | Europe
16 Dec 02 | Europe
16 Dec 02 | Science/Nature
28 May 02 | Science/Nature
21 Dec 02 | Scotland
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