NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

'Banking' fishing quotas agreed by EU

Scottish fishing boat Image copyright PA
Image caption Fish will be left in the sea instead of being caught and potentially going to waste

Fishermen affected by the Russian food export ban are to benefit from a change in EU law allowing them to bank a quarter of their mackerel quota.

The EU Fisheries Council has agreed to permit the industry to bank 25% of the 2014 quota, up from the standard 10%, and roll it over for use in 2015.

The fish will be left in the sea instead of being caught and potentially going to waste.

This will give the industry more time to foster trade deals with new markets.

Moscow imposed an embargo on food imports from the EU and US in response to sanctions over Ukraine.

The ban has had the biggest impact on Scotland, where fishermen hold 70% of the UK mackerel quota.

Trade deals

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

"Today's 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 Russian market accounted for 18% of UK mackerel exports last year, generating £16m.

'Welcome help'

The legislation change, which includes species of herring and sprat, means UK fishermen could potentially reserve 72,500 tonnes from their 290,000 2014 quota for next year.

Scotland's Fisheries Minister Richard Lochhead said: "I am delighted that Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki recommended an increase to allow some of this year's quota for certain stocks to be banked and that council agreed to a 25% increase this evening.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Russia is the biggest market by volume for Scottish mackerel and herring

"I had previously written to the commissioner asking for an increase to be considered and the additional amount will be a significant and welcome help to Scotland's fishing industry as they seek to mitigate the impact of the Russian ban.

"And while we may not use all the extra banking, it makes sense to give our fishermen the flexibility to leave some of the fish in the sea for another year."

International markets

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."

He added: "Scientists have confirmed that banking this level of quota will not be detrimental to the stock in the medium to long term."

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said: "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."

Russia is the biggest market by volume for Scottish herring and mackerel.

Scottish exports of food and drink to Russia were worth £89m in 2010.

Related Topics

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites