Page last updated at 17:21 GMT, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 18:21 UK

Skippers 'let down' by ministers

Fishing boat
Fishermen are concerned by plans to further cut the days allowed at sea

Fishing leaders believe the Scottish government has given up the fight for the future of their livelihoods.

They accused ministers of ignoring them rather than fighting plans to cut the number of days skippers spend at sea.

The Scottish government said it would do "whatever it takes" to help the fishermen.

Meanwhile, the wives of fishermen known as the Cod Crusaders who spent several years campaigning for the industry said they were now resuming their fight.

With three months still to go, this year's quota is already running out and now Europe is proposing to further cut the days allowed at sea by up to a quarter.

The Scottish Fishermen's Federation said more cuts would devastate the industry.

The issue was discussed at a joint meeting of UK fisheries ministers in Edinburgh, where fishermen's organisations delivered a warning that efforts must be stepped up to head-off proposed cuts.

It's quite distressing and emotional when a grown man comes up and asks with tears in his eyes 'can you help us'
Carol MacDonald
Cod Crusader

Following the meeting, Fisheries Minister Richard Lochhead said: "Ministers, the industry and non governmental organisations were in agreement that the broken Common Fisheries Policy is having a devastating impact on Scotland's ability to ensure valuable fish stocks are harvested sustainably to secure both the short and long term future of our fisheries.

"We fully understand that feelings are running high due to tough European restrictions and low fish prices as a result of the recession.

"We cannot afford to ignore problems such as discards and wait until 2013 for the CFP to be overhauled. Decisive action is needed now.

"We will do whatever it takes to ensure our fishermen are rewarded with catch quotas and effort that is actual fishing time, not simply time spent at sea, and to maximise profitability and responsible fishing."

He added: "Scottish fleets continue to demonstrate international leadership on the conservation front. Over the coming weeks I am determined to work with them and NGOs to help achieve a sustainable and profitable sector."

Crusaders return

Safeguarding the future of the fishing industry has been a major part of SNP policy since before the party came to power.

But skippers now feel they are being let down by the Scottish government.

Skipper David Milne told BBC Scotland: "Our vessel is tied up just now in September and October. If these cuts go ahead next year we are probably looking at July/August time and we'll have a large amount of vessels tied to the wall with no fishing opportunities."

Bertie Armstrong, of the SFF, said: "We have a serious gap between what we know must happen, by way of support for the industry to allow us to continue to sustainably fish, and what's actually being said, which is 'sorry, there's not much we can do about this'."

The Cod Crusaders wound up believing they had done all they could two years ago.

However, one of them - Carol MacDonald - told BBC Scotland of one fisherman: "It's quite distressing and emotional when a grown man comes up and asks with tears in his eyes 'can you help us'."

She explained: "Once again the harsh reality is any suggestion which incorporates the fishing industry's viability is vetoed at the slightest possibility.

"It is as though those in power do not want to see a prosperous functioning industry, and this is why the Cod Crusaders will make their return to bring the fishing industry to the forefront once again."

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