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 Saturday, 21 December, 2002, 12:27 GMT
Fisheries cuts 'spell disaster'
North Sea cod quotas will be cut by 45%
Severe cuts in white fish quotas will "decimate" Scotland's fishing communities, it has been warned.

The deal struck by European fisheries ministers to save depleted stocks has been attacked as "draconian" in the north east.

And fishermen have warned that they may be forced to break the law if it is the only way to remain viable.

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

Raymond Bisset
Fraserburgh councillor
After five days of talks in Brussels an agreement was reached which will limit fishing vessels to 15 days at sea.

There will also be a 45% cut in cod quotas, a 50% reduction in haddock catches and 60% cut in whiting catches.

Scotland's Fisheries Minister Ross Finnie described it as the best deal possible.

However, Fraserburgh Councillor Raymond Bisset warned that the moves would mean disaster for the community he represents.

The Liberal Democrat is convenor of Aberdeenshire Council and chairman of the North-East Scotland Fisheries Development Partnership.

Common sense

He claimed that the proposals could blow a 300m hole in the region's economy.

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

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

"I think people could see this coming, but we always held out hope that common sense would prevail.

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
"I don't think at the end we expected such draconian measures. It looks like one big conspiracy - it defies all logic."

He predicted that some people would be forced to leave the town because "there's not an awful lot else for people to do in Fraserburgh".

Mr Bisset tabled a motion at an emergency meeting of Aberdeenshire Council on Friday seeking financial aid for north east fishing communities if major catch cuts were imposed.

The authority agreed to ask the Scottish Executive for special economic status for the towns of Peterhead, Fraserburgh, Banff and Macduff.

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

"Even at its best possible scenario, every community in the north east of Scotland is going to be decimated," he forecast.

Scottish fleet

Mr Finnie and First Minister Jack McConnell plan to hold urgent talks with fishing leaders next week to discuss a financial support package.

However, Mr Buchan predicted that it would take a 40% decommissioning scheme to retain even a remnant of the Scottish fleet.

"That would decimate the infrastructure of our industry," he said.

Fish demonstration
Fishermen campaigned against cuts
He said it would hit the processing sector as well as those who maintain the boats.

Mr Buchan said he needed more information on the proposals before he could say whether he would defy the limits on time at sea.

But he warned: "If it means going to sea to remain viable then yes, I will break the law.

"I am not gong to go out of business without a fight.

"If the only way possible for me to remain viable is by going to sea, I will go to sea."

Biggest hit

Scottish National Party fisheries spokesman Richard Lochhead also attacked the proposals, which he described as "anti-fish, anti-fisherman and anti-Scotland".

He said: "Our fishing communities will be utterly desperate and furious, given that the Scottish industry, which has bent over backwards to conserve fish stocks, has nevertheless taken the biggest hit."

However, the first minister insisted there was still a future for Scottish fishing.

"These have been tough negotiations and while this agreement will pose a real challenge to our Scottish fishing industry, there is no doubt Ross Finnie has negotiated well for Scotland," said Mr McConnell.

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21 Dec 02 | Scotland
20 Dec 02 | Scotland
20 Dec 02 | Europe
19 Dec 02 | Europe
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