The Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association has expressed bitter disappointed at the failure of EU-Faroe talks in Copenhagen to reduce access arrangements for Faroese vessels to catch mackerel in EU waters.
The Scottish pelagic sector had been pressing hard for a rebalancing of the access arrangements because they are skewed heavily in favour of the Faroese, enabling their fleet to catch almost a third of their mackerel quota in EU (mainly Scottish) waters.
Under the EU-Faroe bilateral deal first negotiated in 2014, an access arrangement enables the Faroes to catch some of their own mackerel and blue whiting quota in EU waters rather than in Faroese waters.
In return, EU vessels can catch some of their quota for these species in Faroese waters. However, an independent study carried out by Seafish reveals that the bilateral deal delivered no benefit to the UK as its vessels did not catch any mackerel or blue whiting in Faroese waters.
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said: “We are bitterly disappointed at the outcome of these talks, which we regard as a missed opportunity to rebalance the agreement.
“The agreement continues to favour the Faroese greatly and we don’t understand why the EC failed to press for a fairer access arrangement. The Faroese are already being rewarded with a larger quota supposedly based on mackerel abundance in their own waters, so why do they need such a generous access share to fish for mackerel in Scottish waters?
“It delivers a negative impact on our valuable processing sector and undermines the Scottish Government’s five-point plan to deal with the current marketing difficulties for mackerel. It also means Marine Scotland Compliance will have a huge burden on its shoulders next year monitoring Faroese fishing activities in Scottish waters.
“The Faroese overshot their mackerel catch in our waters by 1,400 tonnes in 2014, and the one positive element to come out of these talks was that this figure will be deducted from their overall quota in 2016.”