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Call for aid as ban on discarding fish looms

EUROPE's move to ban fishing boats from discarding perfectly good fish has been widely welcomed, but other changes are needed or a significant section of Scotland's fleet may not survive, it is claimed.

The campaign to stop edible fish caught in nets being thrown back to remain within European Union quotas was led by the chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and also backed by Ricky Gervais and Jamie Oliver.

Last year the European Commission announced a phased ban on these discards beginning in 2015 for pelagic fish such as herring, mackerel and blue whiting, extended to other fisheries from 2016.

While welcoming reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) Mike Park, chief executive of the Scottish White Fish Producers Association (SWFPA), which represents 200 boats and 1,200 fishermen, said: "Maintaining an economically viable fleet will be hugely difficult, if not impossible, if the discard ban comes in without other major changes to the management regime.

"It is imperative that the issues in the way are identified early and tackled to ensure a future for the industry around our shores."

He says implementing the changes would be an enormous challenge.

In the SWFPA's response, Mr Park identifies the key issues. He highlights problem "choke species", the types of fish that are abundant but have low quotas that in a mixed fishery are quickly exhausted, preventing further fishing for the main target species.

He claims there is a failure to provide a "soft landing" for the ban to give time for it to be implemented satisfactorily.

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