THE Brexit trade deal will lead to “a fall in the quantity of fish” Scotland’s skippers can catch, new Scottish Government analysis has claimed. 

A report by fisheries specialists in the civil service says that while there will be “small gains” in quota for mackerel and herring, they will be “far outweighed by the impact of losses of haddock, cod and saithe”.

Fergus Ewing (below) said the deal would “adversely impact” Scotland’s fishermen. 

One prominent Scottish fisherman said the deal was worse than being in the Common Fisheries Policy.

The National:

Controversially, the deal hammered out by the EU and the UK on Christmas Eve includes a five-and-a-half-year transition period in which the current rules over access remain in place. 

After that comes to an end the EU and the UK will hold annual consultations to jointly determine the total allowable catch (TAC) for each stock.

If, however, there is now agreement on catches, the other party may “apply compensatory measures, including the suspension of tariff concessions for fisheries products or the suspension of access, in part or in whole, to its waters”.

That could ultimately mean the EU imposing tariffs not just on fish but on other UK experts, effectively creating a permanent link between access to waters and access to markets. 

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Much to the anger of fishing communities, the EU will give up just 25% of its quota shares for over this transition period. 

But because much of this quota was not actually caught by the EU, there is little potential gain.

Currently, Scottish boats can catch what’s in their quota, lease extra quota from other producers, or swap quotas of fish.

The leasing and swapping quota is a key bargaining tool to allow vessels to operate legally in very complex mixed fisheries in the northern waters of the Scottish fishing zone.

The Scottish Government research says that under the Brexit deal, the swapping of quotas with individual member states will no longer be allowed and leasing will be prohibitively expensive.

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This, they add, will ultimately reduce the quantity of fish in key stocks available for the Scottish industry to land.

That could mean Scotland’s industry having less access to those staple fish stocks.

In the stocks where there will be an increase in UK quota share, the deal only secures access to stocks where the EU was not currently fishing its full allocation.

The Scottish Government said that some of the extra quota negotiated will be “paper fish” - numbers on a spreadsheet that don’t accurately represent the reality. 

They give the example of North Sea Sole. The increase in share agreed generates over £12 million in value for one species alone with a very high average price per tonne.

But, according to their analysis, there is no ability to catch this additional fish in this particular fishery.

They said the amount of fish caught by the Scottish industry will also fall because a special scheme, called the Hague Preference, which gave Scottish boats extra quota has also been lost under the Brexit deal. 

Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy, said the analysis was “deeply troubling.” 

He said: “Scottish coastal communities were told that any Brexit deal would mean a very large rise in fishing opportunities. In fact for the key stocks that the Scottish industry depends on, far from seeing a big increase,  there will actually be a fall in the quantity of fish they can land.

“We were assured that getting our own seat at the table as a coastal state in annual negotiations would result in gains for our fishing interests. Through this agreement, our ability to do that has been removed with the loss of leasing and swapping quota. 

“We were also told that a red line for the UK Government was that the fisheries deal would not be tied to the overall trade deal. In fact fisheries is hardwired into the overall deal meaning any attempt to reduce EU access in future will lead to trade sanctions – hitting key Scottish industries like salmon producers.”

Ewing added: “This is a terrible outcome for Scotland’s coastal communities.  The small gains in quota for mackerel and herring are far outweighed by the impact of losses of haddock, cod and saithe – and that threatens to harm on shore jobs and businesses too linked to harbours, fish markets and processing facilities.  As our analysis shows, there is very little here to celebrate, and plenty to be worried about for the future of Scotland’s fishing interests.”

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Mike Park, chief executive of the Scottish White Fish Producers Association, said:“Setting politics aside, the members of SWFPA  are deeply aggrieved at the very challenging situation they now face for 2021.

“Whereas we have gained modest uplifts in  shares for some stocks the stark reality is that the demersal sector enter 2021 facing significant shortfalls across a range of key species, which is down to the fact that we can no longer enter into direct swaps with colleagues in Europe

“In addition,  the issue of sovereignty and our future ability to negotiate additional shares after the five and a half year window would seem clouded by so much complexity that it is difficult at this time to see how the UK government can use its newly recovered sovereignty to improve the situation of my members.”

Michael Gove defended the deal yesterday, claiming that the UK would be “in a stronger position than we were in the EU and in the common fisheries policy”. 

The Tory minister told the Today programme: "In the common fisheries policy we were only able to access about 50% of the fish in our waters. It is the case that we are now getting a significant uptick in that number, so we will have by 2026 about two-thirds of the fish in our waters."

One scottish skipper took to social media to describe the agreement as a farce. 

John Clark, who's based in Peterhead, tweeted his local Tory MP, David Duguid, and Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, telling the men: "Fishing communities will suffer and you have endorsed a new CFP which is worse than the present CFP."