Conservative MEP for Scotland Dr Ian Duncan has reacted with astonishment at the recent intervention by SNP MEP Ian Hudghton regarding the imminent introduction of the discard ban to demersal species.
From January,fishermen catching demersal species, notably whitefish such as haddock and whiting, will have to bring ashore everything they catch. Pelagic fishermen have been subject to the ban since January 2015.
Mr Hudghton has written to EU Fishing Commissioner Karmenu Vella urging him to do more to support Scottish fishermen when the ban comes into force. This is despite the fact that Scottish Fisheries Minister Richard Lochhead has repeatedly refused to help fishermen cope with the additional costs of the shore-side handling of fish previously discarded.
Ian Duncan, who participated in the closed EU negotiations,inserted the following clause into the text of the law:
“Member States shall have in place measures to facilitate their storage or for finding outlets for [undersized fish], such as support for investment in the construction and adaptation of landing sites and shelters, or support for investments to add value to fishery products”.
Mr Lochhead has chosen to overlook the clause, which his officials at Marine Scotland described as ‘gloriously open to interpretation’. Mr Lochhead has also refused to convene a summit with fishing leaders to address the issues raised by the discard ban.
Dr Duncan said,‘I had the clause written into the Landings Obligation to oblige government to support the fleet through the challenges which could be clearly predicted. Itseems that Mr Hudghton is unaware of this clause since he has written to Commissioner Vella urging the Commission to move away from ‘governing by central diktat,’ and called for co-operation between‘local and national authorities and the fishermen’.
Let me be clear, I agree with all Mr Hudghton says. However, it is the intransigence of Scotland’s own Fisheries Minister, Richard Lochhead,which is the real problem. Mr Lochhead has the freedom to support the fishing industry. This is not only my opinion, but also the strongly held view of the Chair of the Parliament’s Fisheries Committee Alain Cadec MEP, with whom I worked closely on the legislation.
Richard Lochhead can provide support to fishermen. The provisions secured by my fellow negotiators on the Fisheries Committee give him the freedom to step in. I fear that Mr Hudghton's letter is just one more sign of the SNP saying one thing in Brussels and doing another at home. Fishermen deserve better.’