Fisheries bodies call on Scottish government to set up own advisory group
Two Scottish fishing organizations are calling on the SNP government to set up its own expert group to respond to any ‘crazy’ advice and help future international quota negotiations.
The Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association and the Shetland Fishermen’s Association said the independent panel would be able to analyze the data, including estimates on the number of fish in the sea.
They hope the Scottish Fisheries Minister can then refer to the panel’s analysis during negotiations with the EU and Norway, and not just relying on a source from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea .
In a report from the two fisheries bodies, titled ‘ICES-Plus: Improving Science Advice in Scottish Fisheries Management’, the authors said: which borders on insanity, we urge the government to set up such a panel this year , ready to examine the ICES opinion expected in June. “
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Fishing quotas determine how much of each species of fish Scottish fishermen are allowed to fish. Prior to Brexit, UK fishing quotas were set by the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy.
The report says: ‘The timing for such an initiative could hardly be better, as the Scottish government is now responsible for the management of fisheries in Scottish waters and plays a key role in determining the UK’s negotiating position. in international negotiations on quotas.
“We are not seeking to supplant or minimize the role of ICES in providing advice on fisheries management. It is clear that the ICES will remain the main provider of such advice for the foreseeable future.
“But we have good reason to believe that an alternative view of major stocks would significantly increase the quality of management decisions.”
Simon Collins, Executive Director of the Shetland Fishermen’s Association, said: “Every year the annual negotiations start with advice from ICES and the recommendations are based on that.
“There is a bunch of advice coming out now to inform the Scottish and UK negotiations when they meet with Norway and the EU to discuss quotas for next year – we want a panel that can come and consider that advice.
“Politicians are reluctant to deviate from ICES advice, even if it looks bogus.
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“For example, there are fluctuations from year to year, and honest mistakes are made, but an independent panel could pick up on that.
“The mackerel quotas went from 800,000 per year to 300,000 per year, then went up to 900,000 per year – there is clearly something wrong, and the minister would have good reason to deviate from it. this opinion.
“In 2016, the scientists said to increase the haddock catch by 30%, so we started the negotiations saying that.
“But that should have been reduced by 45% and we want to prevent that from happening, because often science has been wrong.”
“We have to watch again”
He added: “Cod in the North Sea, for example, has seen its quota reduced over the past two years much more than it should have been, so we need to reconsider that.
“This is very urgent as we are about to receive the advice at the end of the month, and that will decide the catches for next year, so anything strange has to be stopped now.”
Mr Collins said the Scottish and UK fishing industries are now in a position to question the science provided by ICES after Brexit.
He said: “Once Brexit is over, the UK negotiates with the EU.
“Before, when the UK was part of the EU, the negotiations on stocks were between the EU and Norway. These stocks are now traded by the EU, Norway and the UK.
“The basis for these negotiations has not changed, so it doesn’t matter whether you are in it or not. [of the EU]. But if you’re outside the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy, the UK is able to say ‘that sounds wrong’ – before that would only happen if the whole EU came to the same conclusion.
“On paper, we are equal negotiating partners and can raise objections. “
He added: ‘In the long run Scotland should have their own institute that can provide advice, but until we get to that point we need something for politicians to get advice from. ‘a respected panel.
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“We have experts here and they are ready to contribute to a better result.
“The fishermen are absolutely ready to make it better and pay for it.
“If it’s credible, we win, and for now we don’t think it’s done too well. “
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Meanwhile, Shetland MP Beatrice Wishart called on the Scottish government to act on the report’s recommendations.
Mairi Gougeon, Minister for Rural and Islands Affairs, said: “Scientists at Marine Scotland are providing ICES with data, evidence and expertise regarding stocks of interest to the UK, thus providing the basis for international advice .
“These scientists already contribute to the peer review of ICES advice in accordance with the organization’s advisory framework and principles, and are best placed to comment on the quality of ICES advice and, where appropriate, challenge such advice. or interpretations and assumptions.
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“Marine Scotland intends to discuss these issues with the fishing industry as part of the future fisheries management strategy.
“The Scottish Government’s negotiating position has always been to achieve the best outcome for Scotland’s fishing interests by ensuring sustainable harvest opportunities. “