Minister announces consultation this summer – but conclusion is foregone

Shetland’s favourite MSP Ariane Burgess provided a useful opportunity last week for rural affairs secretary Mairi Gougeon to confirm a proposed Scottish government consultation about sandeels, by submitting a written question about sandeel management.

The cabinet secretary’s written answer, by complete coincidence (or not), came just ahead of the announcement last Monday of a consultation into sandeel management by the Scottish government. It confirmed the Scottish government’s intention to close the sandeel fishery in Scottish waters completely.

The Scottish consultation comes weeks after a similar one from the UK minister. This is widely expected to be a rubber- stamp job that will lead to the permanent end of sandeel fishing in UK waters – a decision that would force the Danes to focus their seasonal fishery on the EU portion of the North Sea.

The UK has just 3% of the North Sea sandeel quota, which has been set in line with ICES recommendations – but this quota has not been allocated for a number of years. A legal bid by the owners of the only vessel with sandeel FQAs, Sunbeam Fishing Ltd, to force the UK secretary of state to open the fishery, was rejected by the courts in February this year. That ruling in effect meant that it was highly unlikely that sandeels would ever be fished for by a UK vessel again.

No date or timetable has been provided for the Scottish consultation – just the fact that it will go ahead this summer, raising a few eyebrows as to the timing of this announcement, and the reasons for it.

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here

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