Fish Nightmare before Christmas


Rarely a day goes by when I am not reminded of the faults of the EU. However, today those failings were taken to a whole new level.

The co-ordinators of the Fisheries Committee - those members of the political groups tasked with co-ordinating the business of the committee - voted to postpone the implementation of the ‘delegated act’ which would allow a phased introduction of the discard ban. Not my Group, we voted against, but the groups representing the SNP and UKIP voted for it. This may sound like an innocent action but the impacts for the Scottish fleet will be devastating.

Much effort has been spent to secure a staggered introduction of the ban, with haddock, whiting and saithe affected from 1st January 2016, and cod - the more challenging member of the white fish family - included from 1st January 2017. The consequence of the vote: all species must now be landed from 1 January 2016, haddock, cod, whiting, saithe, the whole shebang.

Given the far-reaching implications of the vote you would think that there must have been a helluva good reason. Nah. Some on the Fisheries Committee felt that they were not being given enough time to scrutinise and amend the delegated act by which the Parliament would empower the Commission to implement the phased approach. The Fisheries Committee will now revisit the issue in February, leaving Scottish fishermen (and colleagues from across the EU) scrambling to make sense of the idiocy and pettiness but more importantly, prepare for the full impact of the ban which will now hit them in less than 3 weeks.

The Scottish Government has made much of the fact that the discard ban affecting white fish was to be phased in; that there would be a whole year to address the challenges represented by the inclusion of cod, the challenging ‘choke’ species; that there would be time to get the shore side facilities in place. Then today the SNP’s political party in the EU, the Green/European Free Alliance, voted to apply the full discard ban to the Scottish fleet from 1 January.

I know Ian Hudghton, the SNP MEP who sits on the Fisheries Committee. He is a good man. I don't believe for a minute that, had he known about the actions of his political group, he would have supported the callous activity. I can only assume he didn’t know. For another time the question, why did he not know. Right now I am calling on Ian to get behind the Scottish fishing industry and repudiate the actions of his political group. As to the role of UKIP’s coordinator on the Fisheries Committee, Ray Finch, who knows what was in his mind? It certainly wasn’t British fishermen.

We have got to get this mess sorted out. Scottish fishermen deserve better than this. I will be doing all I can to get the deal that the Scottish fleet needs, back on the table.