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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 December 2005, 09:26 GMT
EC tables cod quota cuts at talks
Fishing boats in Burghead Harbour
Scottish fishermen face more restrictions on their industry
The European Commission is proposing cuts in cod quotas as ministers continue their meeting in Brussels to set levels for next year.

Scottish fishermen oppose plans for a reduction in the number of days a month trawlers can spend at sea.

Fisheries Minister Ross Finnie said Scotland's fishing industry should not be singled out for further cuts.

Mike Park, vice-president of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, said the industry wanted stability.

"A balanced deal for us is all about sustainability and security and I think we have to make the stock sustainable, which we are in the process of doing," he told the BBC.

"But I think we need continuity and stability as far as being able to project business plans is concerned.

Ross Finnie
These discussions are always difficult
Fisheries Minister Ross Finnie

"That would be a luxury for us because we've not had it for so many years. We think we're on the brink of achieving it."

Ahead of the Brussels talks, the European Commission said a "long-term approach" was needed to manage declining fish stocks.

It said the situation of fish stocks in EU waters continued to give "serious cause for concern".

Scottish fishermen who can currently spend 180 days a year catching cod could be restricted to 164 days at sea.

'By-catch' consequence

The commission is proposing a 15% cut in cod catches. Similar 15% cuts are also being urged in sole, plaice and prawn catches, because of the risk in these fisheries of an accidental cod "by-catch" which further erodes supplies in the sea.

Mr Finnie said Scotland's fishing industry took steps three years ago to reduce its cod catches by 65% and had since reached that target.

Speaking on BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme, he said: "We believe that if there is going to be any further cuts then it is only equitable and fair that Scotland should not suffer any more, or be imposed on any more, unless everybody who has been asked to reach that 65% target meets that target."

The minister said it was important to acknowledge that the main cod fisheries were adjacent to Scottish waters, which was a particular problem for the industry.

'Balance interests'

"Our other major industries, such as haddock and also our prawn fisheries occupy seas very close to and at times the same as the cod stock.

"So it's very difficult to produce measures, which on the one hand, deal with the very serious problem of cod, and on the other hand allow Scottish fishermen to prosecute haddock and prawn fisheries."

Mr Finnie said he had been talking to other EU member states and he believed Scotland had support for the stance it was taking.

He added: "These discussions are always difficult, there are people who are arguing very strongly to take a hard-line, but I've got to balance the interests of the environment against the interests of our fishermen to make money and our fishing communities, upon whom they depend."


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Ross Finnie explains fishing industry concerns



SEE ALSO:
Haddock catch plan sparks anger
21 Oct 05 |  Scotland
Fishing framework plan published
28 Jun 05 |  Scotland
Minister dismisses quotas scheme
17 Jan 05 |  Scotland


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