The annual round of horse-trading over the next year’s fishing quotas is under way after the European Commission (EC) announced its proposals for 2015.
Catch limits for most key Scottish stocks are due to be decided in international talks between now and the end of the year, but the EC set out its stall for others yesterday.
One of the key pillars of the newly reformed Common Fisheries Policy is to have all stocks fished at sustainable levels – the so-called maximum sustainable yield (MSY).
Where possible, scientists advise how to bring them to MSY levels.
The EC aims to increase or maintain the catch limits for 29 stocks and reduce them for 40, in line with scientific advice.
Its proposals will be discussed by EU fisheries ministers in Brussels on December 15 and 16, with the agreed catch limits and a new discard ban taking effect from January 1.
A 14.2% increase is proposed for North Sea prawns, which the EC said were a success story for “both the fishing industry and the member states concerned who have shown that managing stocks responsibly and taking decisions to achieve MSY delivers sustainable fish stocks”.
It added: “At the same time, for some stocks in a poor state, the picture remains alarming.
“Cod in the west of Scotland is a real problem, with extremely high rates of discarding, and is still at a risk of collapse.
“For many of these stocks, more selective fishing techniques are urgently needed.”
The EC’s proposals would see no change in the annual quota for North Sea megrim, or in the zero catch for west of Scotland cod. West of Scotland whiting faces a 20% cut.
Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chief executive Bertie Armstrong said: “As usual, the commission proposals are varied and are just the first step in the overall process of setting catching opportunity for 2015.
“Some of these initial proposals will present a real challenge, especially for west of Scotland white-fish.
“The introduction of restrictions aimed at the rapid achievement of the shaky concept known as maximum sustainable yield and the imminent discard ban will further add to the difficulties faced by the fleet.
“The fishing industry will be pressing for a fair and equitable deal that achieves the twin aims of sustainable fishing and a viable fleet.”