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Press release

MEP support the retention of the Shetland fisheries box to for a further three years

Fisheries - 14-02-2006 - 12:54
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In an own-initiative report on the current restrictions within the Common Fisheries Policy, MEPs welcomed the Commission's decision to "maintain the Shetland Box for a further three years" and to "retain the Plaice Box and associated access restrictions pending further study".

The Shetland Box
Established in 1983, and in the hope of curbing the over-fishing of "species of special importance in the region…which are biologically sensitive", the Shetland Box is managed by a licensing system which restricts vessels of over 26 meters fishing for demersal fish in the area. The five main commercially exploited fish in the box are haddock, monkfish, cod, whiting and saithe, with a disproportionate abundance of mature haddock and whiting. The licensing system restricts the number of vessels allowed to fish within the box at one time to 128. This number comprises 62 British, 52 French, 12 German and 2 Belgian, the allocation of which was "based on the track records of fishing activity in this area".
The Plaice Box
In 1989, the Commission established an area closed to beam trawlers of more than 300 horsepower (hp) or 221kW that became known as the plaice box. The restrictions were implemented in order to reduce the levels of discards of flat fish in the North Sea fisheries. At first, the closure applied only in the second and third quarters of the year, but in 1994 it was extended to the fourth and since 1995, the box has been closed the whole year round.
The report comes after the Commission fulfilled its commitment under Article 19, which requires it to assess the "the justification for restrictions on access to waters and resources outside of the 12 mile zone". It welcomes the Commission's cooperation with the industry, whilst noting the support for the maintenance of the Shetland box given by the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) and by the North Sea Regional Advisory Council (NSRAC). It further notes how the Commission's Expert Working Group highlighted the "socio-economic importance of the boxes" and that one of the intentions of the Shetland Box is to "provide protection for fisheries-dependent communities in the north of Scotland".
The report observes that the UK government, along with the German government, believes that any changes regarding the Shetland box are "neither necessary nor desirable" and that "any decision should be taken in the context of future flatfish management and the advice of the National Sea Regional Advisory Council (NSRAC)".
Parliament calls on the Commission to make a quantitative evaluation of the likely implications of any changes to the Shetland box and recommends that in the case of these evaluations taking longer than the anticipated three years, it recommends that the current legislation should remain in force.
REF.: 20060210IPR05168