Fishing crew are going to have to work longer hours when the discard ban is extended from the start of next year, according to north-east celebrity skipper Jimmy Buchan.
Mr Buchan, who starred in the BBC’s Trawlermen series, which highlighted the hardships of life at sea, said the new landing obligation on the white-fish fleet was likely to add to the pressure of limited time at sea under current EU catch rules.
He added: “Although I have to remain optimistic, I am very sceptical that this new regulation will be very easy to operate within.
“The rules look like they are helping fisherman in that we no longer have to dump fish back to sea.
“But this legislation is radical in how we will manage the harvesting of catches next year.
“There is good news in the fact that haddock quota is to increase significantly which will help the fishers phase in the landing obligation.
“However, crews are going to have to work on deck for longer periods sifting out any discards and then having to weigh, log and stow this catch separately – more workload for crew that may already be working long hours in bad weather for no extra financial reward.”
Widely hailed for putting an end to the wasteful practice of throwing much of the catch – often dead – back in the sea because it is either unwanted, undersized or there is no quota for it, the discard ban raises questions about who will police it or take responsibility for any fish left on the quayside.
Large increases in quota for the Scottish fleet in both haddock and cod – 30% and 15% respectively – were agreed at recent talks between the EU and Norway.
Haddock will also receive an additional “uplift” of 17.3% to help the fleet cope with managing the discard ban
The extra quote for these two species alone is worth an estimated £11million to the industry.
But while healthier stocks are creating new opportunities for some, Mr Buchan – famed for the langoustines caught by his Peterhead-registered boat Amity II – said poorer nephrop (prawn) catches in 2015 highlighted another story.
He added: “They could be under threat – not from fishermen over-harvesting but from growing stocks of white-fish.
“Fish eat fish and as we try to manage sustainable harvesting and mortality there is a risk that not all stocks can be healthy.”
And urging EU fisheries ministers to increase quota for Scottish monkfish, which he said were in abundance this year, Mr Buchan warned that not doing so would mean fishers losing out.
He added: “Fishermen are all for sustainable and responsible fishing methods.
“But I am not convinced that bureaucrats and politicians have the knowledge and understanding that what might look good on paper will not work in the real world of commercial fishing.”