Scotland’s fishing fleets face cuts to valuable fisheries such as cod and haddock under the deal negotiated by the UK, the Scottish government believes.
It said its analysis showed there would only be increases in the quota available for Scottish trawlers in five of 13 fishing areas around or close to Scotland, with clear falls in several of the largest such as North Sea cod.
Fergus Ewing, the Scottish cabinet secretary for the rural economy, said that despite UK government claims the deal would greatly increase the catch for domestic trawlers, many fleets and ports would experience adverse impacts. That was “deeply troubling”, he said.
“Scottish coastal communities were told that any Brexit deal would mean a very large rise in fishing opportunities. In fact, for the key stocks that the Scottish industry depends on, far from seeing a big increase, there will actually be a fall in the quantity of fish they can land.”
The Scottish government analysis found that in six fisheries, the percentage of the quota available to UK fleets during the five-and-a-half year transition period would fall, particularly for the most heavily fished species of cod, haddock and whiting.
Those quotas include North Sea cod, one of the most valuable white fish fisheries, which would fall from 63.5% to 57% for the UK. North Sea haddock, another valuable fishery, would fall from 92.5% of the quota to 84.2%.
The Scottish government analysis, which did not include financial or tonnage data, said the quota would increase in five fisheries, including Irish Sea and west of Scotland haddock. UK government data shows those fisheries are about two-thirds smaller than their North Sea equivalents. It would remain static in two fisheries.
Ewing acknowledged that the UK’s quota for far larger and more valuable pelagic fisheries for herring and mackerel would increase slightly.
Even so, he said, the fine detail of the deal showed that many of the apparent gains were either unrealisable because they were technical, or irrelevant because EU fleets were not catching their full quota allocation. The deal also meant UK fleets could not swap quota with EU fleets.
“The quota either being given up by the EU or negotiated as a win by the UK government is of no worth nor value to Scottish fishing interests,” Ewing said.
“This is a terrible outcome for Scotland’s coastal communities. The small gains in quota for mackerel and herring are far outweighed by the impact of losses of haddock, cod and saithe – and that threatens to harm onshore jobs and businesses too linked to harbours, fish markets and processing facilities.”
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been asked for a comment.
Mike Park, the chief executive of the Scottish White Fish Producers Association, said his members were “deeply aggrieved” about the immediate future. It was far from clear whether fleets would benefit greatly once the transition period was over.
“The issue of sovereignty and our future ability to negotiate additional shares after the five-and-a-half-year window would seem clouded by so much complexity that it is difficult at this time to see how the UK government can use its newly recovered sovereignty to improve the situation of my members,” he said.