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 Friday, 20 December, 2002, 22:42 GMT
Anger over fish quota deal
Protest march
Quota cuts have sparked protests in Scotland
Scottish fishermen have reacted angrily to a deal to cut North Sea cod quotas.

The deadlock was broken on Friday evening after five days of talks between European fisheries ministers in Brussels.

The agreement will mean a 45% cut in cod quotas - a far smaller reduction than originally proposed by the European Commission.

Ross Finnie
These interim measures will cause difficulties... for our hard-pressed fishing industry

Ross Finnie
Fisheries Minister
It will also restrict fishing vessels to port for all but 15 days in each month.

The European Commission accepted more flexibility on the time limit to allow for vessels travelling to and from their traditional fishing grounds.

The president of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, Alex Smith, described the proposals as "devastating".

He said no other industry could function when limited to just a few days a month.

And he added: "It is immoral to treat people like this."

Scotland's Fisheries Minister Ross Finnie said he was frustrated that he had not been able to reach a more favourable deal.

However, he described the agreement as a significant improvement on the original proposals for a total cod ban - and claimed it was the best deal possible.

Urgent talks

He said: "Despite extracting substantial improvements through our negotiations, these interim measures will cause difficulties - both offshore and onshore - for our hard-pressed fishing industry.

"I want to put on record my appreciation for the enormous and unstinting efforts of those representing our fishing industry over the last few days.

"It has taken a substantial effort to extract 15 days at sea, improvements to catches and the other measures from this council."

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
Mr Finnie said he and First Minister Jack McConnell would be holding urgent talks with leading figures in the Scottish fishing industry next week to discuss a financial support package.

However, former Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond accused Mr Finnie and UK Fisheries Minister Elliot Morley of being politically inept.

"They are political minnows swimming in a sea of Commission sharks and Scotland's fishing communities are paying the price for their ineptitude.

"Let it be clearly understood - there is no way that the Scottish white fish fleet will die quietly.

"It is the bounden duty of every representative of the fishing community to support the fleet in whatever action they now decide to take," said the MP, whose Banff and Buchan constituency covers the fishing ports of Peterhead and Fraserburgh.

'No option'

Peterhead skipper John Buchan said he and his six-man crew faced bankruptcy.

And he warned that he was prepared to defy the sailing limits in order to sustain a living.

"I've simply no option - my only other option is to stay in harbour and go bankrupt.

"I owe it to myself and my crew to try my best, go out to sea and say to the government, 'Do your worst'," he said.

Further decline

Thousands of jobs are said to be at risk in Scotland, both in the catching and the processing sectors.

However, environmental groups feel that the deal falls far short of the measures needed to prevent the further decline of fish stocks.

Sweden and Germany were the only two of the 15 EU countries which did not sign up to the deal, which comes into effect in February next year.

They wanted tougher conservationist measures.

  The BBC's Tim Hirsch
"The fishermen say they cannot survive this"
  Brendan May, Marine Stewardship Council
"It's too little, too late"

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20 Dec 02 | Europe
11 Nov 02 | Scotland
19 Dec 02 | Europe
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