THE National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations has strongly rejected suggestions from the owners of a number of large Scottish pelagic fishing vessels that mackerel quota should be redistributed away from the specialist hand-line fishery in the South West.

NFFO chairman Paul Trebilcock said: “It is true that in recent years the hand-line allocation has not been fully utilised. This is normal in a fishery which fluctuates from year to year. The point is that in the years when this quota is not fully utilised, it provides valuable swap currency which is then used to secure alternative quota for stocks that are accessible for the under-10 metre fleet and the hand-liners. Indeed it was a hard-fought-for allocation and ultimately a protection for the hand-liners that should not be given away by DEFRA”

Mr Trebilcock added: “At a time when we are all working to ease the quota situation for the under-10s which includes a high number of hand-liners, this is a very unhelpful, not to say selfish, suggestion.”

The south-west hand line mackerel quota allocation is just 0.83 per cent of the total UK allocation of the Western mackerel or 1,750 tons which ever is greater. The current UK quota for this year is 166,765 tonnes.

Fishermen from the South West have been hand-lining for mackerel, pollock and bass for more than four decades - providing a vital source of income for many inshore fishermen. Their vessels are generally vary in size between 15 and 40 feet in length, depending on the time of year and the area in which they fish.They also use techniques that have been handed down over the years. Unlike some other areas, the mackerel season in the south west can last most of the year under certain conditions.