Pelagic industry calls for fairer agreement

Fisheries leaders have called on the government to address the issue as a matter or urgency.
Fisheries leaders have called on the government to address the issue as a matter or urgency.

The Scottish pelagic fisheries industry is calling on government to protect Scotland’s mackerel fishery from further invasion by Faroese boats.

The cry comes in advance of a meeting this week to discuss the 2015 bi-lateral fisheries agreement between the EU and the Faroe Islands.

During the talks, representatives will exchange fish quotas, allowing whitefish, mackerel and blue whiting to be fished in each other’s waters.

As part of the agreement they will agree an exchange arrangement allowing EU and Faroese vessels to fish a large portion of their mackerel quota in each other’s seas.

The Scottish industry, which includes the fishing and processing sectors, believes the system favours the Faroe Islands, putting local jobs and livelihoods at risk.

In 2014 the EU was granted 9,850 tonnes of fish to catch in the Faroe zone while the Faroe Islands received 24,800 tonnes to fish in the EU, the vast majority of which will be fished in Scottish waters.

In addition, each party has been granted access to fish a staggering 46,850 tonnes of mackerel in the others’ waters.

Ian Gatt, CEO of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association said “Richard Lochhead and George Eustice must stand up for Scottish and UK interests, the current bi-lateral fisheries agreement is clearly not in our favour.

“The benefit of this agreement is totally skewed in the favour of the Faroe Islands and this must be addressed at the bi-lateral consultations next week.

“We understand this agreement is important for the whitefish sector and are not calling for the scrapping of the whitefish exchange of quotas. However the UK is only catching half of our permitted Faroese whitefish quota, while the Faroese fish 100% of its allowable mackerel, putting Scotland at an economic disadvantage.

“We must therefore address the mackerel access quota as a matter of urgency.

“The Faroe Islands were granted a hugely increased mackerel share this year on the basis that mackerel is more abundant in their waters. Why do they then need to fish a third of their quota off the Scottish coastline?

“The reality is that the Faroe Islands will catch their full EU access quota this year and not one kilo of the EU’s mackerel quota has been caught in the Faroese zone. This is because mackerel caught in Scottish waters are in prime condition and will happen again next year if we don’t do something to halt it.”

Ian McFadden, chairman of the Scottish Pelagic Processors Association (SPPA), said: “This is of real concern because the Scottish processing industry has always offered a uniquely premium product.

“We urge politicians and representatives in industry to address these unfair trading conditions.

“Mackerel processing alone is worth over £324 million to the economy and supports around 2,260 jobs.”