European Union fishing chief Karmenu Vella has been urged to put a management plan for the North Sea on ice pending “greater clarity” on the UK’s Brexit settlement.
Tory MEP Ian Duncan said yesterday he had written to the EU fisheries commissioner highlighting the “significant implications” for skippers landing fish worth hundreds of millions of pounds at Scottish ports every year.
Members of the European Parliament’s fisheries committee are anticipating a European Commission proposal for a multi-annual plan on the North Sea later this month.
“The plan is intended to give long-term stability in setting future catches, and support the implementation of the discard ban and further regionalised management.
Mr Duncan said: “While such a plan may have been sensible for the UK as a member of the EU, the departure of the UK will mean some 80% of the North Sea basin will lie outwith EU waters.
“The development of such a plan is, therefore, questionable.
“I am calling on the commission to postpone the publication of its North Sea fisheries management plan, pending greater clarity on the likely fisheries settlement between the UK and the EU.
“If MEPs and (European) Council working groups were to begin work on the plan at this stage, it would only add to the increasing uncertainty for fishermen and the fishing industry both within and outwith the EU.”
He added: “ I suggest that work on the proposed multi-annual plan for western waters should also be postponed, for the same reason.
“In the future, it is likely that total allowable catches for North Sea species will be settled either in a series of bilateral negotiations – UK/EU, Norway/EU and UK/Norway – or in a trilateral negotiation between the three fishing powers.
“Whilst in the short-term management measures in EU and British waters may remain similar, this almost certainly will not remain the case.
“It would, therefore, be sensible for the commission to consider how the EU would bring its management measures into conformity with the approach in the bulk of the North Sea.
“Such an issue should be given early consideration by the parliament’s fisheries committee, and I will be writing separately to its chairman, Alain Cadec, to raise this matter.”
According to Scotland’s chief statistician, 439,900tonnes of fish worth a total of £437million was landed by Scottish-registered boats during 2015.