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Sustainable fishing campaigners accuse MSPs of 'two decades of neglect'

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Sustainable fishing campaigners accuse MSPs of 'two decades of neglect'

Sustainable fishing campaigners have accused MSPs of “two decades of neglect” of the North Sea fishing industry ahead of a Scottish Parliament debate.

With MSPs set to hold a debate on sea fisheries and end year negotiations, Open Seas has warned that “a failure to invest in our fisheries science and proper fisheries management plans” has left ministers with little information on sustainable limits for key populations, while stocks continue to be overfished.

The debate comes ahead of EU December fishing negotiations, which will allocate quotas for stocks in the North Sea, with SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson calling for Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing to lead the UK delegation at next month’s talks.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Stevenson said: “Scotland’s fishing industry needs an experienced and capable voice at these talks. The science is challenging and this is the last time for at least a year that Scotland and the UK is going to have a voice in EU talks on fisheries. So this isn’t the time to send someone with limited or no experience.

The warning from Open Seas follows a call from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea for catch limits for cod be cut by 70 per cent.

The group pointed to the dredging of Loch Carron for scallops in 2017, which caused widespread damage to a flame shell reef, as proof “the way we are managing fisheries is neither sustainable nor ecosystem-based”.

Phil Taylor, head of policy at Open Seas said: “Fish populations in Scottish seas are a public resource, but are often used as a political football, whilst sustainability issues affecting the industry are left undebated and unresolved.

“During two decades of neglect, key stocks have been overfished, the emblematic North Sea cod fishery is once again in dire straits and white fish populations on the west coast have still not recovered from collapse. Successive administrations have presided over these boom and bust fisheries, whilst the environmental condition of our marine ecosystems has been degraded.

“It is now more imperative than ever that the Scottish Government sticks to its guns and follows the scientific advice to end overfishing in our seas.

“The Scottish Parliament’s annual sea fishing debate is usually dominated by discussion of quota stocks in advance of EU member state negotiations, reflecting mainly offshore pelagic and demersal trawl interests.

“Our coastal communities, our marine environment and our fishers need the Scottish Parliament to dedicate some attention to inshore fisheries – these are the areas in most need of attention and those that employ the majority of fishermen.”

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