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EU agreement secures support for Scottish fishermen

Mackerel capture. (Photo: Stock File)

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014, 01:50 (GMT + 9)
Fishermen affected by the Russian food export ban will benefit from EU wide support thanks to lobbying by the UK government, Fisheries Minister George Eustice has announced.

The UK has led on securing a change to EU law so mackerel and herring fishermen can ‘bank’ a higher proportion of their quota this year and use it next year instead. This will provide more time for industry to make trade deals with new international markets, making up for the loss of Russian trade.

The EU Fisheries Council has now agreed to ‘bank’ 25 per cent of 2014 quota, up from the standard 10 per cent, and roll it over for use in 2015. The Russian ban has had the biggest effect in Scotland, where fishermen hold 70 per cent of the UK mackerel quota.

"We pledged support for our world class mackerel industry following this unjustified ban and have been campaigning hard in Europe ever since," said Fisheries Minister George Eustice.

"This success is a great example of industry and Government working together to deliver swift, practical help and shows the UK’s leadership in Europe.

"This will provide time to negotiate more trade deals for mackerel so our fishermen can take their catch to what we hope will be a bigger, more valuable market."

The decision follows Secretary of State Elizabeth Truss’ visit to Peterhead in August, where she heard first-hand about the effects of the Russian ban on Scottish fishing businesses and the need for quota flexibility.

The agreement will support the Government’s wider efforts to help the industry develop new markets for British mackerel. There have been recent Government led trade visits to Vietnam, Japan and Hong Kong, where mackerel was promoted to buyers from Asia. British mackerel will also be promoted at China Fisheries in Qingdao next month.

The UK government has also been working with the EU to reopen the Nigerian market, which is an important alternative for the industry – some companies are now successfully exporting following import restrictions imposed by the Nigerian Government earlier this year.

Welcoming the news, the Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said: “I warmly welcome today’s announcement. This underlines the UK Government’s commitment to use our influence in the corridors of power in Brussels to secure legal changes that will benefit both mackerel fishermen and processors in Scotland.

“This is a great example of the UK Government working together with industry and major Scottish fishing communities such as those in the North East to help ensure fishing will be as much a part of Scotland’s future as it has been of our past.”

Scottish fishermen have also welcomed the decision taken at the European Fish Council in Luxembourg to mitigate the impact of Russian trade sanctions.

Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said: "We commend the European Commission and the Council for acting on this quickly following the request made by Scottish and UK governments. It is still too early to assess what the impact of the Russian trade sanctions will be on the Scottish mackerel sector. The fishing season has started and the fish is selling on the international markets.

"But it is important that we have flexibility through the facility to bank and carry forward some of the 2014 quota into next year should it be required. Hopefully we won’t need to use this option, but it is vital that the banking facility is in place as we don’t want to be in a situation where cold stores are full and our boats are catching excellent quality fish that ends up for fishmeal."

The Fisheries Council's decision will mean UK fishermen could potentially reserve 72,500 tonnes for activities next year, when new and alternative markets are expected to have been identified.

Russia’s market for our fisheries account for 18 per cent of UK mackerel exports and generated GBP 16m last year.

The full list of stocks now illegible to bank 25 per cent of quota: North Sea mackerel, Western mackerel, North Sea herring, Atlanto-Scandian herring, Baltic herring and Baltic sprat.

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