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Scottish Seafood Association chief warns 'devil is in the detail' of EU fisheries deal
Published:  21 December, 2012

While UK and Scottish government ministers are congratulating themselves on the outcome of  this week’s EU fishing deals for the next year, Scottish Seafood Association chief executive John Cox warns that the ‘devil is in the detail’.

“It is good news in terms of ‘ Days at Sea’ however quota increases or days at sea are only part of the equation, the biggest issue impacting the economic viability is the access to quota as much of it in the hands of or controlled by none working fishermen or attached to ghost vessels,” he said

“The Scottish Seafood Association wants to see a change to Producer Organisations to include other stakeholders to ensure quota is managed to maximise its value.

“The days before Christmas large quantities of fish is landed and low prices paid costing fishermen £ms in lost revenue, this is a travesty for all in the industry. This week fish has been unsold despite processors warning months ago this would happen. This is in contradiction to markets starved earlier in the year when demand was good and high prices were being paid.”

He added: “Unfortunately quota traders forced the leasing cost of quota up to point it was not economical for boats to fish but instead went to oil guard ship work. Fish buyers fully sympathise with fishermen, the crews and families when prices collapse after battling through severe sea conditions, but they should question the organisations with the remit to market fish within the Common Fisheries Policy, they are ultimately to blame for mismanaging the quota and flooding the markets when demand is low.  

“To highlight how fragile the processing  industry is, North East Scotland’s processors have declined from well over 300 in the late eighties to today just over 60. This huge loss in capacity with the potential of more casualties in 2013 is not good news.

“There are virtually no new entrants because of the difficulty attracting finance from banks to set up new businesses. The uncertainty regarding securing payment for exports due to the high risk in the main countries such as Greece and Spain is also driving down the price of seafood and increasing legislation provides no incentive for investment.

“The processing sector has worked with representatives of the catching sector to plan landings however there is still resistance from some representing the catching sector not to provide information when boats are due to land and what they will have for sale. This culture has to change if the supply chain from net to consumer is to maximise the value of seafood. The economic benefit from an increase of quota will be lost by reduced quayside prices,’ said Mr Cox

 “The markets for Scottish seafood, although it has the best reputation in the world for quality, are facing huge competition from imported seafood. Scottish processors are fighting hard to retain their customer base as Norway with huge quotas focuses on the UK as a safe haven for selling fish into as well as the influx of cheap farmed fish from as far away as Vietnam and neighbouring countries. The propaganda trotted out about sustainable fish, the scaremongering such as only 100 cod left in the sea against the reality of the North Sea and Barents Sea full of fish gets lost in the media frenzy as celebrities jump on the anti-fishing campaigns having been influenced by mega rich environmental organisations.”

The Scottish Seafood Association chief executive added: “Hopefully there will be good news from regionalising of fisheries management and the rejected Commission proposals for fishing rights to become tradable commodities.

“This would have seen fishing quotas bought and sold on international markets - and could have seen Scotland's historic rights swept up by the Spanish fleet depriving Scottish processors of raw material.  

“We foresee a number changes in the industry when the fleet returns to sea in 2013. There is a need to rationalise the number of organisations involved in the industry. With the fleet and processors dramatically reduced is there the necessity to have so many organisations from Seafish, Seafood Scotland, Seafood Partnership, Scotland Food & Drink, and Scottish Enterprise Food & Drink on top of an abundance of NGOs and fishing organisations?  

“Furthermore it is essential that our staffs are able to avail themselves of every training opportunity and it is essential that if Seafish are unable to see the benefits of a well trained workforce then the Scottish Government should ensure that training continues,” said Mr Cox.

 “We can only hope there is greater appreciation of the need to sustain the processing sector which ensures when the boats land their fish, payment is guaranteed, and buyers are on the market. Going by the recent survey the Scottish Seafood Association and Seafish carried out regarding the financial status of fish processors, we are in uncharted waters.

“In the mix is new labelling legislation, Common Marketing of Fisheries Products and where the European funds will be directed towards, these and many other matters will ensure 2013 is as challenging as it has been in the past for all in the front line of the industry.”

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