Argyll and Bute Council is to write to Marine Scotland suggesting a number of measures which would help minimise the impact of the Cod Recovery Plan (CRP) on the west coast fishing industry.
The CRP is an EU regulation which is designed to help the recovery of cod stock in European waters by setting time limits on fishing effort in Scotland. This applies to fisheries which have a by-catch of cod, such as prawn trawling which is particularly prevalent in Argyll and Bute. Effort levels are set for the west coast and east coast separately but boats can fish in either area. Larger east coast boats are more likely to fish on both coasts.
Lead Councillor for Environment, Development and Infrastructure, John Semple said, “The council is asking the Scottish Government to push the European Commission to make changes to the CRP which would allow the ability to swap effort between different sea areas and allow immediate exemption of vessels which catch little or no cod. If these changes cannot be agreed in the short term the council is asking the Scottish Government to pull out of the CRP altogether.
“The council is also suggesting the use of video surveillance on boats to prove low catches of cod and allow exemption from the CRP, we’d also like to see this year’s allocation of days at sea for individual vessels to be agreed with fishermen’s associations and that an economic impact assessment on the implications of any proposed reductions in days at sea for west coast boats is undertaken.
“The CRP is a threat to our coastal and island communities and I am pleased the council has agreed to write to Marine Scotland about it. It seems very unfair west coast fishermen are suffering at the hands of the legislation which is not flexible at all. We will do all we can to help them.”
Prawn trawlers in Argyll and Bute catch the least amount of cod in Scotland and up until autumn 2012 west coast vessels with less than 5% of their catch as cod were allocated 200 days a year at sea. However, the prawn fishery in the North Sea failed last year and as a result a significant number of east coast boats fished on the west coast for an extended period. This meant the effort limits for the west coast were exhausted faster than usual and Marine Scotland had to put additional control measures in place last August.
Under EU rules, the overshoot on effort from 2012 has to be deducted from the 2013 total, resulting in Scottish vessels having to spend less time at sea on the west coast this year. In April this year the Scottish Government announced that days at sea allocations for west coast prawn vessels in 2013 would be equivalent to 95% of the hours spent at sea on the west coast in 2009-2011, with a minimum rate of 110 days for the year. In addition, the Scottish Government has stated they will call for the European Commission to take action to allow exemption of vessels with low cod catch and remove the rigidities in the CRP which prevent member states moving allocations of time at sea between different sea areas.