MP raises complaints from Shetland fishermen over cod quotas, foreign vessels and financial losses during debate on impact of Brexit on industry
Alistair Carmichael, Member of Parliament for Orkney and Shetland. photographed during the debate. Photo: Parliamentlive.tv
Islands MP Alistair Carmichael has raised complaints from frustrated Shetland fishermen in a scathing attack on the UK government’s post-Brexit relationship with the industry.
Mr Carmichael, who chaired this morning’s debate in Westminster on fisheries management, said he had heard from fishermen from across the UK and was ‘stunned’ by the volume and content of the correspondence .
He said they all had a message: “The deal made by the Prime Minister on Christmas Eve is not what we were promised and six months into his first year is causing enormous hardship. . “
Quoting the captain of a 22 meter Shetland trawler, he added: “We have a ridiculously small cod quota and we cannot avoid cod.
“There is more cod around the Shetlands right now than at any time in living memory, but our quota is tiny.”
“The captains recently said that you can catch your quota for the year in a day.
With plans to reduce cod quotas again next year, Mr Carmichael asked why the UK government is still using the EU’s ‘broken quota system’ when we are now an ‘independent coastal state’.
Quoting another Shetland fisherman named Magnus, 19, of Whalsay, Mr Carmichael went on to say: ‘Why does the fishing industry have to fight its own government to survive?
“Why don’t their advisory boards have qualified fishermen who are former fishermen or fish processors.
“Why are they allowing uncontrolled foreign fishing vessels into our waters? “
Mr. Carmichael then pointed to the “catastrophic blockage” at the start of the year, which prevented exporters from getting the fish to market.
He said a Shetland company was facing a loss of £ 50,000 due to export delays.
While the fisheries minister pledged to help those affected through compensation programs, Mr Carmichael said these had also failed for many.
He said the company facing a loss of £ 50,000 was looking to minimize the financial shock by selling cheaply in domestic markets.
After doing so, however, he concluded that he was not entitled to compensation.
Carmichael said the minister should have warned companies that they “should let their fish rot” if that is how compensation would be awarded.
The Orkney and Shetland MP also raised concerns over the unsafe behavior of foreign ships in UK waters, noting two near misses involving Shetland ships.
He said there was also a “huge disparity” between the authorities’ approach to British ships and that of the French and Spanish fleets “which can roam virtually without being worried.”