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Quotas a 'disaster' for fishermen on the west coast

16 December 09 15:25 GMT

The latest agreement on fishing quotas in Brussels could spell disaster for west coast boats, it has been claimed.

EU fisheries ministers agreed that next year's west coast prawn catches should be cut by 15%, haddock by 25% and whiting by up to 10%.

John Hermse from the Mallaig and Northwest Fishermen's Association said those in the industry had had enough.

He described the new quotas as "downright abusive" and kill off white fish fishing opportunities.

Mr Hermse said: "We've already had boats that have tied up. We've lost some good people this year. I would say in the next two to three months we'll lose more."

Speaking from Brussels, Scottish Fisheries Secretary, Richard Lochhead, said: "Given the challenging backdrop, these were always going to be tough talks. We have fought hard for our fishermen and the outcome will offer some degree of comfort to parts of our industry.

"After long negotiations, working with the UK, we have achieved gains for some of our most valuable stocks and secured interim arrangements to ensure stocks shared with Norway can still be fished.

"We have also secured support for 'catch less, land more' trials - another example of Scotland showing international leadership on conservation."

UK Fisheries Minister Huw Irranca-Davies claimed the scientific deal was a significant agreement.

'Real challenges'

He said: "The last two days of negotiation have been as hard as ever but this win will be great news for the fishing industry.

"Sound science is essential in helping to conserve fish stocks while also allowing the industry to thrive. I know the fishing industry is fully behind these trials and I look forward to working with them as they progress."

Scottish Fishermen's Federation (SFF) chief executive Bertie Armstrong said: "While the final situation could have been worse, given the original proposals on the table, there is no doubt that the Scottish industry will be facing another tremendously challenging year, with there being a continuing downward trend in quota for many species and further restrictions on days-at-sea.

"Overall, the Scottish industry will be presented with some real challenges for 2010 and many sections of the fleet will struggle under the new restrictions.

"Hopefully, some of this pain will be alleviated as the recession bottoms out and recovery begins, which may lead to an improvement in prices at the market."

Louize Hill, marine policy officer at WWF Scotland, welcomed the deal which she said would reduce discards.

She said: "This is great news and a positive step on the road to finally solving the problem of discards."

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