Alba Party Depute Leader Kenny MacAskill MP has published a position paper, “A far from Green story – The Scottish Governments Great Mackerel Sell Out”. In this he hits out at what he is calling “the great mackerel sell out” over the fishing deal struck between the UK, and Norway, which has the full support of The Scottish Government. The UK and Norway agreed a bilateral exchange of opportunities for mackerel quota (to UK vessels) and access (to Norway vessels) for 2023.

Mr MacAskill has labelled the deal “tawdry” and has condemned it as “neither fairer nor greener”. As well as threatening mackerel fish stocks, the deal will see 85% of the additional 23,000 tonnes of mackerel allocated to the 21 big pelagic boats with only 156 tonnes – less than 1% allocated to the 200 smaller vessels who land their catch locally.

In a statement Kenny MacAskill MP said:

“This ‘great mackerel sell out’ shows that the deal agreed to by the SNP and the Greens is neither fairer nor greener.

“How can it be fairer when the 21 big pelagic boats are able to scoop up 85% of the mackerel catch – 19,500 tonnes out of 23,000 tonnes and the few big boats are handsomely rewarded at the expense of the many smaller vessels? A case of too much for too few.

“It is a scandal which should shame the SNP Scottish Government and their Green allies that a mere 156 tonnes – less than 1% of the total catch were allocated to the 200 smaller vessels. These are the vessels who land their catch locally in the fishing and rural communities of Scotland.

“With only 156 tonnes allocated across 200 vessels and with 1,000 kg in a tonne, that equates to a meagre 780kg per vessel. Landed mackerel can fetch £1,000 a tonne.
“What this means in practice is that the big vessels and their owners can therefore make nearly £1 million each from this tawdry deal with little left by comparison for the small boats.

“Meanwhile the smaller boats operating with handlining and closer to shore would only expect to catch upwards of 200kg a day. At £1 a kilo it’s an income but not the riches for others with the allocation gone in a few days.

“Scotland is losing out on the processing work too because the big mackerel catches do not have to be landed here but can be landed in Norway instead. The big boats can land the cheap (sold for fish meal) blue whiting into Scotland and the more lucrative mackerel catches into Norway. All of this is allowed as long as they comply with the overall ceiling required by the licence conditions.”

Mr MacAskill continued:

“How can this deal possibly be greener when the deal that has been struck actually threatens fish stocks?

“The mackerel fishery is being overfished, fish stocks are being threatened and what has been agreed to is simply not sustainable.

“North Atlantic mackerel was recently downgraded on the sustainability rating of the Good Fish Guide by the UK’s Marine Conservation Society (MCS), moving it from the “green” to the “amber” list. As a result, the eco-label for Scottish mackerel has been withdrawn.

“By recognising this Norway quota and accepting part of it, the UK Government, supported by the Scottish Government, has now been a willing partner in helping ensure that mackerel were fished above the sustainable levels recommended by scientists and undermined the principles of the Fisheries Act as a result.”

Mr MacAskill concluded:

“The Scottish Greens have at best been ignorant and at worst negligent. Failing even to notice this has taken place tells you just how much they understand about fisheries- absolutely zero. The Bute House Agreement talks about ‘marine environmental protection’ but the reality is very different.

"It is time for the Green fish tail to be removed and for the SNP to call time on this coalition which is harming our environment and damaging our fishing communities.”

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