October 10, 2008

Anger at Fuel Subsidy for Foreign Fishing Scots Asking for ‘Level Playing Field’


A SCOTTISH fishermen's leader has condemned the fact that foreign vessels are allowed to exploit our waters while enjoying fuel subsidies that the Scots are denied.

Ian Gatt, president of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, the major catching organisation, said the fleet was looking forward to a fairly profitable year in 2008 until oil spiralled to near $150 a barrel.

"At that level many owners were talking about survival not profit, " he told the federation's annual dinner.

"Although the price of oil has abated over the last few months the market still looks very volatile but we can be fairly certain that in the long term our industry will need to adapt to an era of high oil prices.

"It is important to maintain a level playing field across Europe in regard to aid but this has not been apparent during this particular crisis.

"Whilst we have come to accept countries like Spain and France fishing in our waters, it is a bitter pill to swallow to see them fish here under subsidies we haven't received."

He welcomed the GBP29m set aside to help make the fleet more fuel efficient over the next three years but urged that it be spent wisely.

He said fuel audits would eat into the package in a major way so it was vitally important that information supplied to vessels' owners is not already in their possession.

"We all know if the throttle is eased back you will save fuel as will having a clean hull.

"We also know if you spend tens of thousands of pounds on a new engine and gearbox you will cut your fuel bill. New information on how to reduce our fuel consumption is what we require."

Mr Gatt said the greatest inefficiency and sin in the industry was the discarding of fish, a term used to describe catching unwanted juvenile fish and shell fish.

"Now the term includes the dumping over the side of good marketable fish, " he said.

"We are not signed up for the continual dumping of good quality mature fish.

The issue of cod has taken the problem to the top of the political agenda but it's not just a cod problem.

"Boats in the North Sea are also dumping whiting and megrim and on the west coast things are no better.

"These fish can earn GBP3 to GBP4 per kilo on the market.

What an economic waste of our seafood resources."

Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, told the dinner that the Scottish Government was committed to ending discards.

"None of us want to see behaviour that jeopardises precious marine resources and the future of our fishing industry and fishing communities.

"We know that we hold these resources in trust for our children.

"There is a determination to find solutions, and a willingness to consider radical measures that will be demanding to implement."

He said the Common Fisheries Policy had not served Scotland's interests and there was much work to do in advance of the 2012 CFP reform.

To that end he had arranged for a small group of experts to meet next week to start drawing up proposals for the future management of fisheries.

"This panel of experts will identify and develop alternative models to vastly improve fisheries management.

"It will examine how we can best manage our fisheries to meet our stated objectives: sustainable seas;

profitable industries; a successful and reputable product; and, vibrant and confident fishing industries and communities.

"And it will look in particular at ways in which we can tackle the scourge of discards."

Originally published by Newsquest Media Group.

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