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Tuesday, 3 December 2013

George Eustice - on course to make waves in the choppy seas forecast for the coming stormy annual TAC regulations

New Fisheries Minister George Eustice faces "tricky" issues in securing a long-term future for the Westcountry fleet, industry leader Paul Trebilcock has said.

The Conservative MP for Camborne and Redruth was given a ministerial berth in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in the October reshuffle.

​Mr Trebilcock, chief executive of the Newlyn-based Cornish Fish Producers Organisation and chairman of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations, said Mr Eustice had already "displayed an impressive grasp of the key issues and much of the detail, despite only being in his post a matter of weeks". "Fishing is big business in Cornwall," Mr Trebilcock said.

"In 2012 more than £13.5 million worth of fish was landed into Cornish ports, yet the industry is facing testing times with wholesale reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) reforms, which are changing the face of regional fisheries. The new minister has an important part to play in ensuring the industry's future in the region.

"All the signs are that George Eustice will be a competent and hardworking fisheries minister. Time will tell if he will be an outstanding one."

Mr Trebilcock said although Mr Eustice's predecessor, Richard Benyon, had overseen CFP reform, "tricky fisheries issues" still remained.

They included the mackerel dispute with Iceland and crucial decisions on quotas and total allowable catch (TAC) which will be made later this month. "Given the date of his appointment, Mr Eustice will have little option but to focus immediately on the outcomes of the TACs and quotas regulation in December," Mr Trebilcock added. "The livelihoods of thousands of fishermen are directly linked to these decisions and even if the process has the appearance of a late night circus, it is nonetheless vitally important. "TAC decisions are always a trade-off between what it is safe to harvest now and avoiding jeopardising the future. "But given that most International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) advice is provided on a single-stock basis, ministers have a particular responsibility to balance mixed fishery issues and discard reduction with continued progress towards high yield fisheries."

He said that some implementation of measures agreed under the new CFP were likely to fall on "Mr Eustice's watch". And Mr Trebilcock warned: "Few within the industry can have much doubt that the impending landings obligation – aka the discard ban – has the potential to cause mayhem unless handled very carefully."

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