Fishers in Shetland are urging the European Union and Norway to abandon their cod management plan and increase North Sea quotas to help reduce the dumping of healthy fish at sea.
Well in advance of talks to set the total allowable catch (TAC) of cod for 2015, they are highlighting analysis of advice from scientists which suggests increasing the quota by as much as one-third would dramatically reduce the need for discards without hampering stock recovery.
Under the existing cod management plan, the TAC for North Sea cod next year could be cut by 20%, leading to a substantial increase in the amount of fish thrown over the side.
Shetland Fishermen’s Association chief executive Simon Collins said: “It’s very simple. If you cut quotas when stocks are increasing, you increase the amount of perfectly healthy, high-quality fish thrown back into the sea.
“Yet the European Union has introduced a discard ban which is due to be phased in from next year onwards.
“On the one hand they want to eliminate discards, but on the other they want to cut quotas which would have the direct effect of increasing discards.
“And it’s not the fishermen who are making these points, but scientists whom EU officials have asked to provide them with advice.
“They need to listen to that advice and act on it, otherwise they are going to have two completely contradictory sets of plans which will crush fishermen caught in the middle – and leave themselves looking alarmingly incompetent.”
The scientific analysis was done by Ian Napier of the NAFC Marine Centre in Scalloway, who said a large rise in cod quota would eliminate quota-related discards altogether.