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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 10 December, 2002, 16:49 GMT
Blair to receive fishing petition
Fishing demo
Campaigners argue the cuts would be a "death blow"
Prime Minister Tony Blair is to receive a 44,000 signature petition from campaigners fighting to avert cuts in white fish catches in the North Sea.

The petition calls on politicians to oppose proposals for an 80% reduction in fishing for cod, haddock and whiting off the Scottish coast.

It was handed over to the Scottish Parliament last week after a march and rally against the plans.

Prime Minister Tony Blair
The petition will be sent to the prime minister
Now Holyrood's petitions committee has backed MSP Dorothy-Grace Elder's call to send the petition to the prime minister to highlight the strength of feeling in Scotland.

Campaigners, who have named themselves the Cod Crusaders, told the committee on Tuesday that the proposed cuts would be "a death blow" to the fishing industry.

They have already presented European Fisheries Commissioner Franz Fischler with a video diary spelling out the consequences the proposed cuts would have on Scottish fishing communities.

Fisheries Minister Ross Finnie will travel to Brussels next week for talks with Mr Fischler.

'Ridiculous plans'

His proposal for an 80% cut in quotas came after scientists called for a total ban on cod fishing in the North Sea in an effort to conserve dwindling stocks.

Fishermen's leaders fear that these proposals could put more than 20,000 jobs under threat.

James Cardno, a fisherman for 45 years, told the committee his family were facing financial ruin if Mr Fischler's plans were adopted.

We feel in the north east that we are of no consequence to this government

Agnes Strachan
Aberdeenshire Council
He said: "The gravity of the position of the fishing industry is great - we have never been in a worse state.

"If these cuts take place, the fishing industry is finished. We have heard about death by a thousand cuts, but if these cuts take place, it will be a death blow for the industry.

"It is our God-given right to reap the harvest of the sea. This is not about conservation - it is a political move."

Agnes Strachan of Aberdeenshire Council accused the UK Government of turning its back on the fishing industry.

She said: "We feel in the north east that we are of no consequence to this government. We feel as if we are being ripped off.

"You are our voice, you are speaking for us and you are our only hope of changing these ridiculous plans."


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