Cod stock protection deal agreed

Ministers have reached agreement with fishermen in Scotland on an initiative aimed at preserving cod stocks.

The conservation credits scheme allows fishermen to spend the same number of days at sea in 2008 as last year.

In return, they must comply with measures including the voluntary closure of areas containing juvenile or spawning cod and controls on net sizes.

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said the move was a fresh start for Scotland’s fishing industry.

The initiative was made possible after the European Union let the Scottish Government decide the number of days the country’s fishermen could spend at sea per year.

Mr Lochhead said: “This scheme represents a new and sustainable approach to fishing in Scotland.

“Europe’s go-ahead recognises and rewards the responsible leadership our industry has shown towards conservation.”

Helen McLachlan, a marine police officer with the World Wide Fund for Nature in Scotland, said the Scottish fleet was leading the way.

She said: “We hope that this will form part of a wider package to help the rebuilding of North Sea cod stocks.”

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said: “We are happy that we now have a chance to show that we can rise to the challenges which this scheme will bring.”