Page last updated at 10:34 GMT, Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Fishing communities 'face threat'

Fishing boat
Industry leaders warn cuts could hit communities and jobs

Fishermen are warning dozens of fragile communities could be devastated under EU proposals to close down the fishing industry off Scotland's west coast.

The plans would ban fishing for cod, haddock and whiting.

But the scheme, discussed in Brussels this week, could also force more than 300 prawn boats out of business.

EU scientists say stocks of white fish are so low off the west of Scotland that trawling for these species should be banned altogether.

They have also called for modifications to the nets of hundreds of tiny prawn boats which could help cod and haddock to escape.

This would be politically and economically unacceptable and will be opposed at industry, Scottish and UK government levels
Bertie Armstrong
Scottish Fishermen's Federation

But skippers have claimed the idea is completely impractical and warned that if the plans were implemented they would have no option but to tie up for good.

Prawns are now the mainstay of many small fishing villages and the moves could wipe out hundreds of onshore processing jobs too.

The west coast fishery is also important for the north east of Scotland fleet.

Scottish Fisheries Minister Richard Lochhead has branded the proposals outrageous and will oppose the shutdown when he heads for Europe's annual fisheries negotiations on Tuesday.

The Scottish Fishermen's Federation (SFF) warned the west coast proposals were unacceptable and would be challenged.

'Sensible approach'

Its chief executive, Bertie Armstrong, said: "We recognise that the west coast cod, haddock and whiting stocks are in a poor state and action is needed to aid their recovery.

"But the langoustine stock is in a healthy state and the proposal for separator grids for the fishery, which is the bread and butter of the west coast fleet, will effectively close fishing down on the west coast.

"This would be politically and economically unacceptable and will be opposed at industry, Scottish and UK Government levels."

He added: "We are instead calling for a more sensible approach to the management of the fishery by advocating the use of more selective trawls that will enable whitefish to escape from the net whilst still retaining the valuable langoustine catch.

"Over the last few years, Scottish fishermen have pioneered a series of initiatives that has delivered tangible results in terms of stock conservation.

"We are calling on the EC to give due recognition of our efforts and to accept our alternative conservation proposals."

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