The retention of the Shetland Box, a vital conservation area whose future was not confirmed by the European Commission in their policy papers, was raised in the Scottish Parliament by Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Jean Urquhart during a Ministerial Statement on reforming the Common Fisheries Policy on June 14th.
After Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, had updated the Chamber on the current situation, Jean Urquhart MSP asked whether the Cabinet Secretary knew whether or not the Shetland Box is to be retained.
In replying, the Cabinet Secretary confirmed that there was no decision made as of yet, but that he had “asked the European Commission why the Shetland Box was missing from the draft regulations that it published” and was awaiting an answer.
After the statement, Jean Urquhart commented:
“I was pleased to hear that the retention of the Shetland Box has been raised at the highest level by the Scottish Government. The hard work of the Cabinet Secretary and the Scottish Government on securing the best deal we can for our fishing industry within our constitutional parameters is very welcome. Approximately a decade ago, the European Commission attempted to remove similar protections that Ireland possesses in their waters, but persistent lobbying by the Irish Government prevented that from occurring.
“The removal of the Shetland Box would put enormous pressure on the species currently caught there on license, and would be another example of how we are adversely affected by the lack of a seat at the top table. As the Cabinet Secretary said yesterday, our influence over the future of fishing policy can only be increased by having our own seat as an independent member state.”