Letter: Fish quota lunacy

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The Independent Culture
Sir: John Gummer ("Europe needs more than quotas to save its fish", 18 December) rightly says: "What is wrong is the policy. Quotas, as at present constituted, don't work."

When quotas are filled, fishermen try to make ends meet by continuing to fish for whatever species they may still be allowed to land. As trawl nets take all species indiscriminately, those fish which by law can no longer be landed are required to be returned to the sea. Survival amongst these is negligible, so the fisherman is obliged to dump already dead but fresh, saleable fish, an action which in any rational society would be seen as that of a lunatic.

No aspect of conservation is served by throwing dead fish over the side, unless it be the eventual reduction of overall fishing effort by forcing fishermen out of the industry. It is conceivable that quota impositions could even be counter-productive by forcing fishermen to work longer hours, thus destroying even more of the restricted species.

For many years, governments encouraged fishermen to modernise the fleet for greater catching power. This enhanced efficiency is now rightly cited as a factor in the decline of stocks. A reduction of overall fishing effort as recommended by Mr Gummer is rapidly becoming imperative; but trying to achieve this by restricting the number of days at sea is morally indefensible. Fishermen have large overheads, fixed costs and in many cases loans to repay and can survive only by maximising their production potential.

Fishermen in general are responsible people receptive to any conservation proposals which make sense. Mr Gummer is right in advocating a reduction of fishing effort, but this should be brought about by a realistically structured decommissioning programme, possibly in combination with the establishing of closed areas in which fish can breed and grow.

PETER KELLETT

Kinlochewe, Ross-Shire

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