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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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Whiteford Speaks Up For Fishing Industry In Commons European Committee

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has urged the UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon to “push CFP negotiations as far as possible”. Dr Whiteford was speaking during a debate on fisheries in the House of Commons European Committee.

Speaking in the Committee, the SNP MP said:

“When discussing CFP reform, it is important that we put it in the context of the past 10 years. The communities that I represent have watched their fleets halve over that time, and I have seen the devastation that that has brought to some of those coastal towns and villages. One lesson that we have learned from the past is that the previous reforms caused a great deal of pain in those communities as boats were decommissioned. Unfortunately, our fishermen are now being asked to take more of the same. I appreciate the Minister saying that none of us would want to start from where we are now, which is right, but at the same time the people who have already made sacrifices are now being asked to make more. My concern with the proposals that I have seen so far is that they go nowhere near far enough to address the underlying social, economic and environmental problems that the CFP has caused in our fishing waters.

“The people whom I represent have done more than any other fishermen anywhere in the EU to make their fishery sustainable. They have taken huge steps towards innovative measures such as trying to use selective gears and all kinds of new approaches. They have developed many ways forward, so that 80% of fish landed now comes from managed stocks. They are also working towards Marine Conservation Society certification in so many of the key stocks. That is huge progress. They have made more progress on discards than anywhere else in Europe, and it is important that they see a reward for the steps that they have taken and for how far they have come.

“The challenges that, in particular, the whitefish and prawn fleets face are symptomatic of the failures that we have seen. We need to remember, that there is a knock-on effect and that not only fishermen, but whole communities suffer. In my constituency, the processing sector, which provides at least as many jobs—if not more—than those that are directly involved in fishing, also suffers.

“The catch quota system has already been alluded to by the Minister as something that has been very successful, and I must agree, but it is a small pilot scheme. In Scotland, only some 26 vessels are involved. The problem is that there are simply not enough quotas around for that to be expanded. However, that seems to be a more economically and environmentally viable way forward than some of the other proposals on the table. I urge the Minister to work with the Norwegians and the Commission to push that measure forward so that we can actually expand the catch quota system and make its success something that we can build on right across the European Union.

“I am still not convinced that internationally transferable quotas offer as viable a way forward as the claims would suggest, and that comes from the fact that, in Scotland, a lot of the fleet is locally owned. I know that that is not the case in other parts of the UK, but I am concerned that if we open the door to quotas being traded internationally, we will lose the knock-on economic benefits of having a locally owned and managed fisheries sector. I want to see the legal evidence that any safeguards that we put in place around ITQs will not be open to legal challenge. We need the detail of that before we can really see it as a way forward.

“Finally, as I remarked earlier, regionalisation is key. Unless we get effective regionalisation we will not be able to move this forward in any way. We are still quite a long way from a policy that is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable for our communities. I urge the Minister to push the CFP negotiations as far as possible because we still need to go an awful lot further.”

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