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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 December, 2004, 11:58 GMT
Fishing plan 'will kill industry'
Plans to close fishing grounds have been labelled 'codswallop'
Scottish fishing chiefs have attacked plans to close up to a third of fishing grounds in a bid to protect stocks.

The Scottish Fishermen's Federation (SFF) said the Royal Commission's report proposals would have a "devastating" impact on fishing communities.

SFF chief executive Hamish Morrison claims the measures would kill off the national fishing fleet within a year.

He said the report was out-of-date and the sector was now sustainable after recent self-imposed cuts.

The Royal Commission claims fish species in the North Sea, Irish Sea and off the west coast of Scotland risk being wiped out unless its proposed action is taken.

It also claims tough European quotas on cod fishing, which include restrictions on the number of days spent at sea, have failed to protect stocks.

Mr Morrison said: "The map in the report makes it clear that what they have in mind to close is more than half of our most productive fishing group.

It's about time they got their facts straight. It's just a load of codswallop
Carol MacDonald
Cod Crusaders

"Frankly, the idea that in the long term it would be fine - there would be no long term.

"With half its income gone, the fleet wouldn't last a year."

He claimed the report's findings would have had "some force" if it had come to its conclusions two or three years ago before the industry had streamlined itself in Scotland.

He added: "We have a white fish fleet that has been cut in half, and the vessels that are left are fishing half-time.

"The whole thing is sustainable now in a way that perhaps it wasn't two years ago.

"Given the long list of great and good scientists making up this commission there is an inevitable and deep sense of disappointment at the simplistic nature of their analysis and recommendations.

"They could have done better and they should have done better."

'Tunnel vision'

The Scottish White Fish Producers' Association accused the commission of having "tunnel vision" and said the industry had already put its house in order.

Its secretary George MacRae said: "There are 20,000km of oil pipelines in the North Sea and on top of that there are oil platforms and rigs and all sorts of legitimate industrial activity, which have had a huge impact on the environment.

"I haven't heard any suggestion that any of these huge activities should be curtailed in any way.

"The main stocks our fishermen catch are haddock, prawns and monkfish - which are in excellent order.

"Haddock is at a 30-year high. Cod is recovering, albeit slowly, and we have decommissioned 50% plus of our fleet - that was done by Scottish fishermen."

Carol MacDonald, of the Cod Crusaders, a Fraserburgh-based group fighting to save the Scottish fishing industry from cod catch bans, branded the commission's findings as "codswallop".

She said: "It's nothing we haven't heard from environmentalists before, but as far as we're concerned, they're still wrong.

Alex Salmond
Alex Salmond claims EU policy is the real threat to the fishing industry
"We're listening to the true scientists of the sea - the fishermen themselves.

"These environmentalists should go out with our fishermen to see first hand there are stocks there to be caught.

"It's about time they got their facts straight. It's just a load of codswallop."

Meanwhile, the leader of the Scottish National Party, Alex Salmond, said the real threat to the industry in Scotland was the EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

Mr Salmond said: "The CFP has been a disaster for Scotland's fisheries and failed our fishing communities.

"Last year's CFP negotiations were a disaster for the industry with ministers agreeing a deal and then having to hot foot it back to Brussels after admitting to 'unintended consequences' that were bad for the industry and fisheries management.

"The CFP is deeply flawed and unsustainable. It is the real threat to an environmentally sound management policy and an economically sustainable future. It is time for us to abandon this disastrous policy."

'Blunt instrument'

The European Commission is expected to call for part of the North Sea to be declared a no-go zone for cod fishing ahead later this week in advance of the annual fisheries negotiation.

Scotland Fisheries Minister Ross Finnie attacked the idea as unacceptable and flying in the face of science.

Mr Finnie said: "We have already made clear that this is an unacceptably blunt instrument, not justified by the science.

"The evidence provided by the European Commission's own scientific advisers suggests the case for such a closed area has not been made.

"I don't think we should get too excited about this latest commission proposal but I certainly have no intention of accepting this as the basis of this year's negotiations."

Scottish Conservative Fisheries spokesman, Ted Brocklebank, said the current science on cod stocks had too often been based on "excessively narrow research findings".

"A total ban on North Sea cod fishing is simply not going to happen," he said.

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