A leading Aberdeenshire Councillor has welcomed the Council of Ministers decision to introduce a phased ban on Discards but warned that such a move, while good in principle, is open to being watered down by detail in the proposals at later stages.
Paul Johnston. A Democratic Independent Councillor on Aberdeenshire Council and a member of its fisheries Working Group said:
“Progress was only of a limited kind, and I believe some governments will seek to backslide even on what had been agreed.
“We are a little over half way through the current round of reforming the Common Fisheries Policy, and it looks that what has been announced by the ministers means there is a lot still to be done.
Councillor Johnston argued that for some governments to say that overfishing should stop – but not for another eight years – is a high risk strategy and both risks their own industry and robs responsible fishermen (many in Scotland) of the chance to benefit from increased stocks and therefore fishing opportunities.
“I personally agree that the proposed introduction of discard bans through MAPs could be dodgy because of the ironical position that such plans are currently being blocked by the ministers themselves.” said Paul.
“Some parts of Europe have too many boats chasing too few fish and nothing has been sufficiently identified about the need to reduce this over-capacity of fishing power. This places many Scottish vessels with less certain prospects as the benefits they should be gaining from better management, increasing stocks and the advantages of having both reduced discards through gear changes and reduced fleet capacity, will be eroded by the delays built into the decisions.” said Paul
“Future generations of Scottish fishermen will benefit from these reforms – but with this Council of Ministers decision, the risks are still there. The pain suffered by the current squeeze on the industry should not be ignored and the gains promised wasted on the watering down of proposals”
The debate now moves to the European Parliament, which must agree reforms. Councillor Johnston hopes that MEPs will work to close the loopholes in the policy to effect real change.