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Key fishing stocks landed by Scottish fleet ‘will drop thanks to Brexit deal’

PA News
A fishing boat (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Key fishing stocks landed by the Scottish fleet are set to fall as a result of the Brexit fisheries deal, according to Scottish Government analysis.

The study suggests eight fish stocks will not present an increase in fishing opportunities, with ministers also saying shares in five-and-a-half years’ time will still be less than their current equivalent.

Currently, the average UK landing percentage of total EU and UK quota combined for North Sea cod is 63.5%.

However, the analysis says this will drop to 57% – the maximum percentage of total EU and UK quota available to the UK – under the Brexit deal.

Similar decreases have been estimated for North Sea haddock (92.5% to 84.2%), Rockall haddock (88.4% to 85%), North Sea saithe (31.6% to 26%), North Sea whiting (82.7% to 73.5%) and North Sea hake (55.6% to 53.6%).

The figures remain the same both before and after the deal for Rockall cod (75%) and West of Scotland cod (81.2%).

Fisheries is hardwired into the overall deal, meaning any attempt to reduce EU access in future will lead to trade sanctions
Fergus Ewing MSP

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said the analysis was “deeply troubling” and that “Scotland’s interests are adversely impacted by the deal reached by the UK and the EU”.

He added: “Scottish coastal communities were told that any Brexit deal would mean a very large rise in fishing opportunities.

“In fact, for the key stocks that the Scottish industry depends on, far from seeing a big increase, there will actually be a fall in the quantity of fish they can land.

“We were also told that a red line for the UK Government was that the fisheries deal would not be tied to the overall trade deal.

“In fact, fisheries is hardwired into the overall deal, meaning any attempt to reduce EU access in future will lead to trade sanctions – hitting key Scottish industries like salmon producers.

“This is a terrible outcome for Scotland’s coastal communities. The small gains in quota for mackerel and herring are far outweighed by the impact of losses of haddock, cod and saithe – and that threatens to harm onshore jobs and businesses too, linked to harbours, fish markets and processing facilities.

“As our analysis shows, there is very little here to celebrate, and plenty to be worried about for the future of Scotland’s fishing interests.”

While there is no increase for North Sea or Rockall haddock, other haddock quotas will rise including Irish Sea (54.2% to 56%) West of Scotland (77.3% to 80.6%) and Celtic Sea (8.8% to 20%).

Other increased fishing opportunities will be available for West of Scotland saithe (47.1% to 51%) and West of Scotland whiting (58.7% to 65.9%).

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted her criticisms, saying: “A better deal for fishing is the only Brexit justification the Tories have ever been able to offer Scotland.

“This analysis shows just how spectacularly they’ve broken that promise. For some key stocks the deal actually delivers a worse outcome than the (Common Fisheries Policy).”

Mike Park, Scottish White Fish Producers Association (SWFPA) chief executive, also said: “Setting politics aside, the members of SWFPA are deeply aggrieved at the very challenging situation they now face for 2021.

“Whereas we have gained modest uplifts in shares for some stocks, the stark reality is that the demersal sector enters 2021 facing significant shortfalls across a range of key species, which is down to the fact that we can no longer enter into direct swaps with colleagues in Europe.

“In addition, the issue of sovereignty and our future ability to negotiate additional shares after the five-and-a-half-year window would seem clouded by so much complexity that it is difficult at this time to see how the UK Government can use its newly recovered sovereignty to improve the situation of my members.”

A UK Government spokesman said: “The UK and the EU have agreed an historic Fisheries Framework Agreement that reflects the UK’s new status as an independent coastal state, and works to protect and promote the rights of fishermen across the UK.

“By regaining control of our waters, this deal puts us in a position to rebuild our fishing fleet and deliver increased fishing quotas through annual negotiations with the EU and other coastal states.

“In the first year this will result in an immediate uplift of 15%, before annual negotiations.

“Scotland, like the rest of the UK, will benefit from tariff-free access to EU markets and investment in our fishing communities as we free ourselves from the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy.”

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