Fight is on to protect coastal fisheries

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SNP PRESIDENT and Angus-based MEP Ian Hudghton (pictured right) has vowed to ensure that current safeguards reserving coastal waters for local fishermen will remain in place after the end of this year.

The move comes after Mr Hudghton was appointed to steer key legislation through the European Parliament.

At present, waters within 12 nautical miles of each EU nation’s coastline are exempted from the general principle of equal access built into the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Accordingly, fish stocks in waters within the 12-mile zone around Scotland are managed by the Scottish government for the benefit of Scotland’s coastal communities.

This exemption however expires on December 31 and unless urgent legislation is adopted, coastal waters could potentially be opened up to all EU vessels after that date.

The European Commission has proposed an extension of two years to the exemption. Mr Hudghton has been given the responsibility of ensuring the legislation is approved by the European Parliament before the current rules run out.

Mr Hudghton commented: “The 12-mile zones around Scotland contain vital fishing grounds for the nation’s fleets. They have been managed by the Scottish authorities for the benefit of Scottish fishermen and accordingly they have been managed well.

“When the Commission was reviewing the CFP a couple of years back they accepted that Europe’s 12-mile zones were amongst the best managed waters in the EU. Free from centralised Brussels control, individual fishing nations have managed to put in place conservation and control measures best suited to their local needs.”

He went on: “The proposal that I am working on is of a fairly urgent nature as the current safeguards expire in a few months time. It is imperative that this is not allowed to happen, so the immediate priority is to extend the measures beyond December of this year.

“However, in the longer term, lessons should be learned from the acknowledged success of national control of these coastal waters. This success contrasts sharply with the complete failure of a Brussels-controlled CFP.”

Mr Hudghton concluded: “There is optimism that negotiations on a reformed fisheries policy for Europe are beginning to head in the right direction. National control has been shown to work at a local level - and the reformed CFP must allow fishing nations to exercise powers at a regional level too.”

It has been anticipated that the 12-mile zones would be continued in the reformed CFP. However, the time schedule for the new Common Fisheries Policy adoption has slipped considerably and the Commission has now acknowledged that the new regime will not be in place by the end of the year.

The Commission has therefore produced an urgent proposal which will extend the current coastal regime to December 31, 2014.

Mr Hudghton has been appointed rapporteur on the legislation by the European Parliament’s fisheries committee. It is anticipated that the final parliamentary vote will take place in November.