Eilidh Whiteford


SNP Press Minister Over Fisheries Reforms

Thursday, 14 July 2011

SNP Westminster Fisheries spokesperson Eilidh Whiteford has welcomed proposals for reform of fisheries policy following an Emergency Question in the House of Commons today (Thursday). However, the Banff and Buchan MP warned that Scotland’s “conservation conscious” fleet should not be further penalised for the failures of the CFP.

Speaking after the exchange Dr Whiteford said:

“We absolutely need radical root-and-branch reform of European fisheries policy, and I welcome the fact the European Commission is finally acknowledging that. Given the importance of fishing to Scotland it is crucial that we influence the development of these reforms and that Scotland’s fleet, which has led Europe in pioneering conservation measures is not penalised further by the CFP.

“Meaningful conservation of stocks must be at the heart of a reformed CFP. The ecological and economic madness of the discarding of marketable fish – currently enforced on our fishermen by the CFP – must be addressed. The industry is understandably concerned that a one-step move to a blanket ban on discards could prove counter-productive. Instead, we should be working with fishermen on practical measures that would stop these discarded fish being caught in the first place.

"There is also a huge threat to Scotland lurking within these proposals because, alarmingly, the Commission is advocating an expansion in the international trading of fishing quotas. Selling quota to Europe's highest bidders will erode Scotland's historic rights which in turn could spell doom for our fragile fishing communities. Our fishing rights would end up with faceless overseas-based multinationals, rather than in the hands of future generations of Scots fishermen.

"The Commission's proposal for regionalisation is a welcome start but they don't go far enough. In the complex mixed-fishery of the North Sea it makes sense for Scotland and other nations to have more control over their own fisheries, working in partnership with neighbouring maritime nations.”

“I welcome the Government’s recognition of the seriousness of the challenges facing the Scottish fishing industry, but I am disappointed that Labour’s front bench fisheries spokesperson used his opportunity to comment on the European Commission proposals to attack the SNP, rather than stand up for Scottish fishing interests.”

A transcript of Dr Whiteford’s exchange with the Fisheries Minister is detailed below:

Dr Eilidh Whiteford: Mr Speaker, I very much welcome the Minister’s commitment to radical reform of fisheries management policy in Europe, and I also welcome his commitment to working with the devolved government in that process. However, I hope he’ll also share my concern that on the European Commission’s own Impact Assessment, these proposals could result in a 20% reduction in the Scottish Fishing Fleet, that’s a fleet that has already been halved in the last 10 years. What assurances can the minister give that the most conservation conscious and aware fleet in Europe will not be further punished for the failures of the Common Fisheries Policy?

Richard Benyon: Well, she’s right to raise concerns on behalf of her constituents, I can just give her the assurance that we are working through the details of these proposals, and as she knows, this is a, this is a, a major step, but a first step really in the negotiations which will take another 18 months to secure, and I will be working closely with my colleague Richard Lochhead in Scotland and with other devolved ministers to ensure that we represent all the UK fleets. I can’t say at this stage whether the Impact Assessment would have that effect. I entirely concur with her that the Scottish Fleet has taken great strides to fish more sustainably and has embraced concepts such as catch quotas, and I will continue to work with her and others to make sure that this is understood not just here but abroad as well.

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