Britain’s fishermen have condemned a European Union deal on fishing which will keep their boats tied up for longer as a “bitter blow” to the industry.
Although the British fishing fleet will be allowed to catch bigger quotas, it faces an estimated 15 to 25 per cent cut in the number of days at sea following marathon talks which ended at dawn on Saturday in Brussels. As a result of the deal the UK’s fleet will be confined to port for longer than ever. That will make it hard for trawlers to take advantage of some big rises in fish catch quotas agreed following the success of conservation measures in some regions. Britain fended off moves to cut fishermen’s days at sea to just four a fortnight next year, in exchange for greater national fish conservation efforts. But boats will still be confined to ports for longer than before. The number of days each vessel is allowed out will be cut from 105 days a year to 90, though vessels will be able to ‘buy back’ extra days by avoiding cod fishing as part of tougher environmental protection measures. Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, hit out at the cuts in days at sea, saying: “While fishing opportunity in terms of tonnage has always been vital, this time around it was the granting of enough time at sea to actually catch the fish that was under threat. “This is a bitter blow for our fishing fleet, which is now going to struggle to maintain economic viability under the impact of these totally unwarranted cuts. “Effort control (by cutting days at sea) is fundamentally flawed as a fisheries management measure and the Commission has totally ignored the real progress in stock conservation in Scotland in recent years through unilateral conservation measures that have helped boost stock recovery. Our whole industry is now facing a very difficult future.”