Scotland could lead EU fisheries reform

July 20, 2011 at 7:28 AM

EDINBURGH, Scotland, July 20 (UPI) -- Scotland could lead the way in European efforts to find common ground on sustainable fishing practices, a Scottish official said after meetings in Brussels.

Maria Damanaki, European commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said action was needed to return European fish stocks to a healthy state. She said she was considering doing away with a quota system that requires fishermen in the European Union to discard as much as 80 percent of their catch. The proposal includes targets to halt overfishing and have fish stocks at sustainable levels by 2015.

Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said his government supports the move toward conservation but added the proposals weren't strong enough.

Lochhead, after meeting with Damanaki in Brussels, said Europe was at a crossroads as it looked toward a reformed common fisheries policy.

"Scotland has led Europe in finding solutions that help both the fish stocks and the industry, therefore we have a responsibility to do all we can to help shape new EU policy," he said in a statement.

Edinburgh has complained that the Faroe Islands and Iceland have set unilateral catch quotas for 2011 that are in excess of previous years. Damanaki has said she would consider trade sanctions against Iceland and the Faroes in October.

Mackerel brought in nearly $174 million for Scotland last year, making it the most valuable fishery stocks for the country.

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