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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 July, 2003, 15:54 GMT 16:54 UK
Skippers offered final pay-off
Fishing boats in harbour
More than a quarter of the white fish fleet could be scrapped
Nearly 70 fishing boats are being offered a share of a 40m decommissioning package to meet new European fishing quotas.

The Scottish Executive said the 69 vessels will be given grants of between 170,000 and 1m as part of moves to reduce the amount of cod fishing by Scottish crews by up to 20%.

Environment Minister Ross Finnie said the executive has also been given EU approval for a transitional aid scheme worth 10m.

It is designed to soften the immediate impact of the new quotas which were announced in December.

We need to reduce white fish fishing effort if we are to have sustainable fisheries for the future
Ross Finnie
Environment Minister

The European Commission ratified a deal which will see cod catches in the North Sea cut by 45%, haddock catches halved and whiting catches reduced by two-thirds.

The agreement also means Scottish fishermen will only be allowed to spend 15 days of every month at sea.

An executive spokesman said about 50 of the vessels which secured decommissioning packages are from the white fish sector.

Mr Finnie said the decommissioned vessels account for a sixth of all cod fishing by the Scottish fleet, meaning the executive was on course to meet its targets.

He said: "We need to reduce white fish fishing effort if we are to have sustainable fisheries for the future.

Cod in boxes in market
Cod stocks are at their lowest for 20 years
"I am also pleased the commission has finally approved our transitional aid proposals, thereby removing uncertainty within the industry about this element of the 50m support package."

A total of 170 vessels applied for grants under the scheme, of which 20 had their bids rejected because they asked for more than the maximum sum permitted.

The amounts vary depending on the age and tonnage of the vessel concerned, a spokesman for the department of rural affairs explained.

The executive said half the cash will be paid in advance once the vessels' owners surrender their fishing licence and if it is given up by the end of next month.

The announcement was described as a "a sad day" by the Scottish White Fish Producers' Association.

It is a disgrace that Ross Finnie continues to bribe skippers to leave the sea
Ted Brocklebank
Tory fisheries spokesman

It has called on both the Scottish Parliament and Westminster to rebuild the industry.

The Scottish National Party's fisheries spokesman, Richard Lochhead, accused the executive of delays in payments.

He said: "The 40m package was announced in January but is only coming close to being paid out now, while not a penny of the 10m rates relief package has been paid.

"It is a sad day for fishing and a sad day for Scotland that our Scottish fishing minister could not, because of his limited powers, fight for the industry."

Tory fisheries spokesman Ted Brocklebank predicted that fishermen would welcome the transitional aid.

But he said: "It is a disgrace that Ross Finnie continues to bribe skippers to leave the sea.

Fishing communities

"For anyone who has the future of the Scottish fishing industry at heart, this cannot be good news.

"I accept that conservation of fish stocks is necessary, but there also must be sustainability of our fishing communities."

The transitional aid package was drawn up to ease the burden on the worst-hit fishing vessels and will cover the six-month period between March and August this year.

Last month the Royal Society of Edinburgh announced it would be conducting an independent inquiry into Scotland's fishing crisis involving marine experts, academics and business leaders.


SEE ALSO:
Cod plan 'failing' communities
28 Jun 03  |  Scotland
Cod crisis 'worse than thought'
11 Jun 03  |  Europe
EU tightens cod fishing rules
06 May 03  |  Europe
'If we can't fish, we can't live'
18 Feb 03  |  England


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