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Thursday, 7 September, 2000, 18:16 GMT 19:16 UK
Plenty more fish in the sea?
Cod boxes
Cod stocks are under pressure
Scottish fishermen saw their incomes fall by 13% last year, according to government statistics.

The figures also showed a 10% fall in landings, with stocks of cod, monkfish and mackerel under pressure.

Now fishermen and conservationists alike have called for action to halt the downward trend.

The situation has alarmed spokesmen for green groups and fishermen's organisations, who said that policies designed to protect stocks were not working.

George Baxter, of the World Wildlife Fund global environment network, said his organisation was in complete agreement with fishermen about what the problem is and what the solutions might be.

Fisheries policy 'unworkable'

He said: "The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is designed not to work.

"It controls fishing by looking at what is landed rather than the effort expended.

"For example, fishermen finding other species in their nets, like whiting, can't land it, so tons of stuff is dumped over the side, dead.

Hamish Morrison, spokesman for the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, agreed the CFP is unworkable and said one reason is the exclusion of fishermen from the decision-making process

Hamish Morrison
Hamish Morrison - Scottish Fishermen's Federation
"Fishermen are depressed by the record of politicians. Many are young men with investments of millions of pounds who need urgent action to find a medium and long term solution."

Mr Morrison said that, although the CFP is due for a major overhaul in 2002, fishermen could not wait that long.

For Mr Baxter the way forward is a more flexible approach to fishery management.

He said: "Fishermen and the WWF have jointly launched a proposal to change the way fisheries are managed across Europe, called zonal management."

Under the scheme, the fisheries controlled by the EU would be split into six areas.

Mr Morrison considered that this would help to solve the problem created by the current "one size fits all" fisheries policy.

Some politicians in national government are still stuck in their old ways of posturing diplomacy

Hamish Morrison
"We would have a much clearer view of what is happening to stocks and be able to make technical adjustments more quickly".

Amongst other measures, that would mean prohibiting fishing where stocks were low.

Mr Morrison is keen to work with scientists on fisheries management and claimed both the UK Government and the European Commission are beginning to see this as the way forward.

"Some politicians in national government are still stuck in their old ways of posturing diplomacy, wanting trade-offs for concessions but the younger ones see the point of just getting on with trying to sort this out.

Stocks 'lower'

"Proper fisheries management is not only desirable but essential.

"Here we are, 20 years into the CFP and fish stocks are actually 15 to 20% lower than their historic base."

Mr Baxter says the coming together of conservationists and fishermen has been a surprise to the government

"It has put them on the back foot a little because we've been pitching against each other for so many years.

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See also:

21 Jul 00 | Scotland
Scottish fisheries powers extended
09 Mar 00 | Europe
North Sea cod under threat
20 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Fish and chips under threat
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