'Dangerous' new fishing measure will 'discriminate' against UK ships and put crews at risk

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Fergus Ewing has been left ‘deeply disappointed and frustrated’ by the new fishing measure

Fergus Ewing, Scotland’s Rural Economy Minister has been left “deeply disappointed and frustrated” by the new fishing measure that will require fishermen to make daily trips to a port on the island.

The politician described his relations with the Isle of Man as “extremely fraught” and claimed the measure would put livelihoods at risk.

He added: “We have put forward a number of alternative measures that would ensure sustainable fishing, and be more targeted, proportionate and, importantly, not disadvantage any one sector of vessels.”

He also told The Telegraph: “I am deeply disappointed and frustrated that the Isle of Man Government has not listened to these alternatives or our concerns which is why I have been left with no option but to consider invoking the dispute resolution process as set out in the Fisheries Management Agreement.

“I would urge the Isle of Man Government to come to Scotland for further discussions as we cannot accept such an obviously restrictive measure that would damage our crews carrying out their legitimate fishing activities.”

The island announced the new rules before Christmas they claimed would protect stocks and prevent over-fishing.

Scotland argued it only found out about the fishing change on December 22 – the scallop industry is worth an estimated £3million to the country.

Reports claim that vessels over 12meters will be threatened as they typically only catch a small amount of scallops each day – this would make it hard to justify a trip to the Island of Man.

Scottish officials declared the change increases “significant” health and safety issues and has a “clear discriminatory impact” on domestic ships.

They added that the rules have not undergone a proper consultation process and it is “fundamentally flawed”.

The new measures were delayed from being implemented on Monday thanks to the Scottish Government’s refusal to accept them – it said they breached a fishery agreement.

Meanwhile, the Isle of Man’s Environment, Food and Agriculture Minister, Geoffrey Boot, declared that boats were needed to make the trip every day to ensure fishing is not underreported.

He went on to say that following the outrage, Scottish ships could report their catches electronically from ports at home as long as trips were solely in Manx waters.

He stated: “We have noted the concerns that were raised by Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing and have modified arrangements so that vessels can return to their home ports – the catch will be reported electronically.

“We will not tolerate damaging the future sustainability of our fishing grounds and believe that the steps we have taken will help protect them.”

Mr Boot was accused by the Scottish government of rejecting an opportunity to discuss the issue in Edinburgh next week.

FishingGetty

Scottish officials declared the change increases ‘significant’ health and safety issues

Steve Girgan, a ship owner based at the port of Kirkcudbright, the largest scallop port in the UK, labelled the new policy a “disaster” for any crew working in Manx waters.

He explained: “In some locations, reporting in would mean wasting at least 40 hours while burning an extra 3,000 litres of fuel.

“So you have a carbon emission issue, you’ve got wasting time and you’ve got more time away from home.

FishingGetty

The scallop industry is worth an estimated £3million in Scotland

“There is also a huge safety factor as the north Irish Sea is a scary, scary place in the winter months. It is very unpredictable, weather patterns change in an instant and defy forecasts regularly.

“But this measure would force you to ignore these concerns and go to the Isle of Man come what may.

“I have a real fear this has disaster written all over it. And, ironically, today of all days is the 20th anniversary of the Solway Harvester being lost in the north Irish Sea.”

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