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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 March, 2004, 11:16 GMT
Skipper denies need for fish cuts
A Downing Street think-tank has recommended further cuts in the UK's fishing fleet, but Scottish skipper James Stephen believes official restrictions are more of a threat to the industry than declining stocks.


It's horrendous the restrictions that we're fishing under at the moment.

I'll give you an example: last year my vessel fished about 300 days, this year I'm now restricted to 165 days.

So I now have to keep a crew going with a pay and try and keep a business going with 50% less income.

Bounteous Sea
Mr Stephen said the industry has suffered enough
We've just had to cut back all the costs we can.

We've actually increased our days by hiring days from another vessel.

We went into our accountant before we hired them and told him how much we were going to have to pay for them - then we have to lease in quota to catch for these days - and he reckons we'll be lucky if we break even.

All we've more or less done is bought a pay for my crew to try and keep them together.

The government are basing their figures on 2002 when they said there were 550 white fish vessels.

Now that's rubbish... the white fish fleet was 183 boats last year - dedicated white fish boats - we decommissioned 68, so that's about 120 left.

A further cut, that'll be a disaster for the shore infrastructure and also the processing sector.

There's hardly any processing capacity left - if there's further cuts and we lose the capacity the secondary processor will just access his product from abroad
James Stephen
Three years ago in Peterhead there were five marine engineers, now there's only one left.

There must be a big effect, especially on the north east towns which are reliant mostly on fishing.

There's hardly any processing capacity left - if there's further cuts and we lose the capacity the secondary processor will just access his product from abroad.

The signs we're seeing in the sea at the moment - we've record haddock and I was talking to one skipper in the fish market today... he'd seen the biggest haul of cod in his life and his crew's on average been with him 30 years at sea and they've never seen such a big haul of cod.

The signs we are seeing at the sea are that the stocks are recovering.

The fleet the size it is there's no way it can fish it out.




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