Fish report ‘misleading’ says North-east skipper

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A BUCHAN skipper has hit out at a report from the New Economics Foundation (NEF) and Ocean 2012 on the state of UK and European fisheries, claiming it is misleading and damaging to the industry.

In its opening statement, the 2012 Fish Dependence Report states that the European Union fish stocks are in “an unprecedentedly poor state”.

However, the report has attracted considerable criticism from the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation and North-east skippers, who say the information contained in the report could do “untold damage” to fishermen, the communities it supports and the greater community.

Amity II skipper, and star of the BBC’s Trawlermen, Jimmy Buchan, is just one of many fishermen who have condemned the report.

He told the Buchanie: “Once again, so-called stake holders, opinionated people and NGO’s come away with hugely damaging statements that can mislead politicians and more importantly the public, which can do untold damage to our fishermen, the communities we support and the greater economy.

“I have been fishing in the Northern North Sea for more than 35 years and I can assure you that the stocks are very healthy and fished sustainably through a very highly regulated regime of compliance - in fact one of the most regulated industries in the World.

“I am willing to stand up and challenge any of these so-called experts in fish stocks over and above my real time experience of being on the grounds and seeing the fish every week.”

Mr Buchan says that fishermen have been told for years there is no cod and that it is in the verge of extinction.

“I can assure you, nothing could be further from the truth and these are all sizes of cod from two to three year-old to 15 year-old,” he said.

“I ask the question, if there were no cod as these experts say and have said for many years, where has the big mature cod come from that I am seeing in my nets every week I am at sea fishing?

“I and my colleagues are fed-up hearing from organisations, NGO’s and such like that the stocks are in danger of collapse. This is not what I am seeing on the fishing grounds nor my many friends and fellow fishermen who fish right around the UK coastline fishing the many different species that surround our coasts and off shore grounds.

“It infuriates me that this report gives a broad band sweep of EU stocks. I cannot and should not make comments on stocks and fisheries in southern state waters. They may well be in a different state from ours,” he said. “Our fishermen for the last two decades have taken the pain of seeing our industry virtually wiped out by the power of Europe in the so-called Cod Recovery Plan, and now we have a well-managed balanced fleet of vessels, well regulated, it is now time to see increases in TACs which will see reinvestment in our industry both at sea and onshore.

“I have said time and time again we are an island nation with some of the most skilled fishermen in Northern Europe. We now need to be protected.

“We are in more danger of extinction rather than the stocks.”

Meanwhile, the SFF also criticised the report stating that the continuing overflow of wrong information on fisheries does a huge disservice to the general public and jeopardises the future of an industry that has made huge strides in recent years in ensuring the sustainable harvesting of fish stocks.

SFF chief executive, Bertie Armstrong, said: “This latest report is advocacy dressed up as science and economics.

“Our fish stocks are not in an ‘unprecedentedly poor state’ as contended in the report. The primary evidence for this misleading statement is based on decreased annual landings. Of course landings have decreased - but this is a logical response to allowing stocks to recover.

“In reality our stocks are in an unprecedented state of recovery following years of real sacrifice by the fishing industry. Indeed, the EC only very recently said that the situation was improving, which is leading to increases in quotas for some species.”

Mr Armstrong also pointed out the wide range of conservation initiatives that are being undertaken by fishermen.

For example, Scottish prawn fishermen have responded dramatically to the challenge to significantly reduce cod and other fish discards by developing and introducing a number of innovative trawl designs that have cut unwanted fish by-catches by around 70% in sea-going trials.

The development of these prawn trawls is going hand-in-hand with other conservation initiatives pioneered by the Scottish whitefish sector, including real time area closures to protect stocks and technical alterations to fishing gear.

“Unfortunately, initiatives such as these are ignored by my some environmental organisations as it doesn’t suit their agenda led policies,” he added.