EU quota talks

UK fisheries minister Ben Bradshaw is set to join EU counterparts in Brussels for talks on annual catch limits.

Cutbacks including a 25% reduction in the cod quota and reductions in plaice, sole and hake allowances have been recommended by the European Commission.

White fish stocks are most depleted in the North and Baltic seas.

For the fifth year running, scientists have warned nothing short of a total ban on fishing for the most depleted species will ensure stock recovery.

The Commission has rejected calls for a ban on fishing for North Sea cod and the latest talks will decide on the permitted days at sea for most vessels targeting white fish.

The BBC’s Emma Jane Kirby said: “Setting the quota levels is no easy task for European ministers, who have to balance the need for conservation against the need to protect Europe’s struggling fishing industry.”

British fishermen are calling for a rollover of this year’s imposed restrictions, which reduced cod catches by 15%, despite the Commission’s calls for a 25% reduction.

Mr Bradshaw has called the Commission’s recommendations “drastic”, adding that he did not believe any European states would support the proposal.

Ross Finnie, Scotland’s fisheries minister, said efforts already made by fishermen should count in their favour in the talks.

The Scottish Fisherman’s Federation (SFF) has said the Commission’s recommendations, which could mean trawlers may only be allowed to work for two-and-a-half days each week, made no sense because many stocks are in robust health.

‘Serious measures’

Mr Finnie said the fishermen were under “real pressure” from scientists who favour a complete ban on catching cod.

“We have trimmed back so much, you get to a point where if you go too far you simply plunge the fleet into a non-viable position,” he said.

“We have made huge efforts in the Scottish fleet and that really is the substance of our argument. It’s not as if we have ignored the science at all.

“We have taken very serious measures over the last three or four years.”

Fishermen from Northern Ireland are also set to take an active role in the talks, with County Down-based trawlermen pushing for a 20% increase in their prawn catch.

Northern Irish prawn boats are currently allowed 220 days at sea but fishermen fear that number may now be reduced.