Alistair Carmichael, MP for Orkney and Shetland, today spoke at the annual debate on fisheries ahead of the December council of the Common Fisheries Policy, which will agree quota levels for the year ahead. Mr. Carmichael used the debate to warn ministers of the challenges faced by the fleet.
Raising his concerns for the future negotiations and on the scientific advice around North Sea Cod levels, Mr. Carmichael said:
“The fisheries council to which the Minister will travel next week is the last of the current set up. It will be interesting to see what we are able to do this time next year, when we are in the Common Fisheries Policy but out of the European Union, as the transitional arrangements would suggest. It is not going to be an easy council. I think the Minister is aware that scientific advice especially in relation to North Sea Cod is challenging and that it is going to produce a difficult outcome. He will, I am sure, argue with some force and vigour that the interests of our fleet should be maintained. I wish him every success in that, but I am interested to hear what will happen this time next year when we will not be at the table, and we will not have a voice.”
Mr. Carmichael then raised the issue of the allocation of Mackerel stocks by the CFP, which sees much of Shetland’s quote assigned to non-EU fleets. He said:
“There is today and tomorrow the EU – Faroes bilateral in relation to pelagic stocks. The apportionment there allows the Faroese fleet access to 30% of the mackerel in EU waters, something which is a slight misnomer as it is essentially Shetland’s waters. That is an exceptionally bad deal with which we have been burdened.”
On the availability of visas in the fishing industry, Mr. Carmichael added:
“It does affect mainly the inshore fleets, but it also has an impact on the larger white fish and pelagic fleets. What is happening is that in order to get round the lack of visas, fishing crews are having to come in on transit visas. The welfare issues with that are well documented, and essentially the real difficult is that it puts fishing skippers in a situation where they are having to fish where the visas regulations allow, not where they know the fish to be. Eventually that is going to have an impact on safety, we all know that, and that is why this is an issue that cannot be ignored.”
Commenting after the debate, Mr. Carmichael said:
“This will be the final December council that the UK attends as a member of the EU and a member of the CFP. From this time next year, we will be bound by decisions which we will not have a voice in making. The Minister must, this time more than ever, make his voice count for our fishing industry.
“The trading of a valuable 30% share of Shetland’s Mackerel for 30% of Faroese quotes is a bad deal for our fishing fleet, and the Minister should firmly resist its continuation.
“It is all too easy to blame the CFP for everything that is wrong with the fishing industry, but there are issues with our own domestic visa regulations. I have been calling on the Government to deal with this, and each time they simply answer along the lines of more discussion and more joined up Government. We need action, not more talk.”