Fishing quotas hiked to help shellfish sector

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The Scottish Government has lifted fishing quotas in a move it said would help hard-pressed fishermen diversify.

Vessels which usually catch shellfish will now be able to catch additional fish off the west coast and North Sea, it said.

The additional quotas allow for 300 additional tonnes of mackerel to be landed off Scotland’s west coast and an extra 500 tonnes from the North Sea

The changes provide new ‘fishing opportunities’ for the shellfish sector  worth up to £2 million, according to the government.

Scotland’s seafood fishing sector has been hard hit by the collapse of the international shellfish market as COVID-19 shut restaurants and hotel kitchens across the continent.

This had caused ‘significant challenges for families, businesses and local communities’ in some of Scotland’s remote rural and island communities which depend on exports.

There will be additional ‘demersal quotas’ allowed, including haddock, anglerfish, whiting, pollack, saithe, ling, lemon sole, skates and rays for both waters.

Fergus Ewing MSP, the fisheries secretary, said: ‘Fishing in our inshore waters for shellfish is a longstanding and lucrative part of our wider fishing industry but the loss of markets practically overnight due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many businesses tying up their vessels.

‘With continued uncertainty regarding future market access and demand, this additional £2 million of potential fishing opportunities will provide scope for some vessels to diversify, and help families and businesses in our coastal communities.

‘It also has the potential to ensure that more people in the UK get to enjoy locally and sustainably caught fish from our waters and I hope retailers will play their part in making that happen.

‘This support is in addition to the £22.5 million that has already been made available by the Scottish Government to the seafood industry, and which was already the largest support package in the UK.’

The government said access to all quotas would be managed by catch limits, adjusted on a regular basis.

Any unused quota would be allocated later in the year to producer organisations, it said.