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Friday, 31 August, 2001, 08:14 GMT 09:14 UK
Fishing pay-off scheme opens
Fishing net
Fishermen must apply for a share of the 25m fund
Skippers of Scottish fishing boats have been offered a share of a 25m decommissioning scheme to get out of the industry.

The Scottish Executive announced in March that 25m would be available for the decommissioning of fishing boats in a bid to reduce the size of Scottish fleets and preserve dwindling white fish stocks in the North Sea.

Applications to the fund, which is being administered by the executive's environment and rural affairs department, will be taken from Friday until 31 October this year.

Some Scottish skippers have said that the offer only goes part of the way to addressing the problem.

Rhona Brankin
Rhona Brankin: "Practical step"
Fisheries Minister Rhona Brankin said the cash, approved by the European Commission, was "the largest ever single investment in the Scottish fishing industry".

Ms Brankin said: "I know Scottish fishermen have been eagerly awaiting the opening of the decommissioning scheme.

"The Scottish Executive has been working in consultation with the Scottish fishing industry to implement the scheme as quickly as possible.

"I believe the 25m package is a practical step that will provide benefits in the long term, helping to ensure an economically viable fishing industry."

Fishermen will be urged to submit competitive bids to the fund on the requirement that they decommission their vessel and surrender its licence.

Preserve stocks

It is being targeted primarily at whitefish vessels in a bid to preserve existing North Sea stocks and improve future sustainability.

The EU imposed new restrictions earlier this year which effectively prohibited Scottish vessels from fishing in certain areas for a 10-week period.

This sparked a protest from Peterhead fishermen, who undertook a voluntary tie-up rather than catch undersized fish.

Protest sign
The deal sparked initial protests
Their efforts to persuade the Scottish Executive to offer compensation led to a series of protests near the parliament.

But ministers held firm and opted for the 25m decommissioning package as the way ahead for the industry.

The scheme was formally announced by Ms Brankin in the Scottish Parliament on 8 March but it soon encountered difficulty.

A majority of MSPs voted against it in favour of an immediate compensation scheme but this was overturned on a second vote.

The Fishing Vessels (Decommissioning)(Scotland) Scheme 2001 was eventually laid before parliament on 28 June and MSPs are expected to formally approve it after the summer recess.

John Buchan said: "It falls way short of what we really need.

"If you want to decommission a vessel you must decommission the three elements of it: not just the boat and the licence, you must decommission also the fishing entitlement of that boat. The fish that are accumulated by that should then be spread back among the boats that are left at sea."

Chronic unprofitability

Fishermen's leaders said the deal was more about preserving livelihoods in the industry than preserving fish.

Hamish Morrison of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation said: "It is about having too many production units and chronic unprofitability.

"As with any other industry, what you have to do is reduce the number of production units so that the ones that remain can achieve profitability.

"We will still be catching the same amount of fish albeit with fewer vessels."

Fisheries Minister Rhona Brankin
"The scheme is intended to take out 20% of the white fish sector, whcih has been experiencing difficulties."
Peterhead fisherman John Buchan
"The decommisioning is going for numbers rather than quality."
Colin Wight reports
"Some skippers still are not happy."
See also:

30 Apr 01 | Scotland
Fishing restrictions to end
15 Mar 01 | Scotland
Clash during second fish debate
14 Mar 01 | Scotland
Second fishing debate to be held
13 Mar 01 | Scotland
Lib Dems dressed down by McLeish
13 Mar 01 | Scotland
Fishermen make 'burning' protest
11 Mar 01 | Scotland
Coalition row rumbles on
10 Mar 01 | Scotland
Brankin defiant over fishing deal
10 Mar 01 | Scotland
McLeish backs Brankin on fish row
09 Mar 01 | Scotland
Fish row strains coalition
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