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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 December 2006, 12:56 GMT
Fishing deal 'a nail in coffin'
Cod and Haddock net
Efforts were made to balance stocks with livelihoods
A new European deal for Scottish fishermen has been branded as "another nail in the coffin".

The deal, reached in Brussels in the early hours of the morning, will see the days many fishermen are allowed to go to sea again being cut.

Scottish Fisheries Minister Ross Finnie said he believed it was the best deal available to the industry.

However, Peterhead skipper John Buchan Jnr warned BBC Scotland: "It's the beginning of the end."

The European Commission backed down on initial proposals which it was claimed could have devastated the Scottish white fish fleet, and instead struck a compromise deal.

Woolworths would not stay open three days a week
John Buchan Jnr
Peterhead skipper

EU Fisheries Commissioner Dr Joe Borg told a news conference the Commission was trying to balance the need to rebuild depleted fish stocks with the needs of those whose livelihoods depend on fishing.

During late-night talks, the ministers agreed a series of concessions offered by the European Commission, including a 14% cut in the North Sea cod catch.

Cod will also be further protected by a cut in the days vessels spend at sea.

The number of days cod fishermen spend at sea was reduced by 7-10% - the current maximum is about 15 days a month, depending the type of fishing gear used and the exact fishing ground.

Scientists said stocks would only recover if there was a total ban on cod fishing, but politicians ruled this out.

'Little point'

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation (SFF), said skippers were not being given enough time to go to sea.

He said: "This deal is far from satisfactory.

"There has been a reduction of days and, added to the reduction of the fleet, it's right down to the bone.

"There's very little point in having enough fish to catch if you do not have enough time to catch them."

Fraserburgh Harbour
Towns such as Fraserburgh and Peterhead rely on fishing

Mr Buchan Jnr said: "As far as I am concerned they are finding another way of cutting us with another day less, it's another nail in the coffin.

"Woolworths would not stay open three days a week."

Mr Finnie said: "There are always disappointments at this time but as long as cod stocks are under threat it's very, very difficult for the Scottish fishing industry.

"I think it's the best deal there was available."

'Utter lunacy'

Moray Scottish National Party MSP Richard Lochhead said: "Ross Finnie has been powerless to stop Scotland being mugged once again at the annual fisheries negotiations.

"It is utter lunacy to provide the Scots fleet with a fishing quota but then take away even more of the days needed to catch it."

Scottish Conservative fishing spokesman Ted Brocklebank said: "This is yet another dreadful deal. A week ago Ross Finnie came out with brave talk about fighting to the last ditch on behalf of Scottish fishermen.

"This latest deal sees yet another massive climb-down."

Dr Borg said in Brussels: "The result was a proposal that has been severely criticised by all sides for being too drastic for some and too weak for others.

"Yet despite the difficulties I believe that the agreement reached tonight reinforces our gradual but sustained approach to delivering sustainable fisheries."

The UK had argued that the deal should take into account the 65% reduction in effort put into catching cod British fishermen have made over the last four years.

UK Fisheries Minister Ben Bradshaw said the UK accepted there had to be further reductions in the cod catch, and that the stock was still in very poor shape, but he added that more cod had been born in 2005 than in any year since 1996.


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