BERWICKSHIRE fishermen are asking for help because of the additional pressure they are coming under to install electronic log books on board their vessels - new EU regulations require them to download information about their catch before they come into harbour, although this may not even be possible because of problems with poor mobile reception.
Introduction of e-log books is being done in stages, starting with the larger fishing boats, and most local boats will have to start looking at installing them either by this summer or by the end of the year depending on size.
Government recommended e-log books cost approximately £7000 and Scottish fishermen are being offered grants of around £2000 - with a total of £900,000 set aside by the Scottish Government.
Not surprisingly Berwickshire fishermen are unhappy about the additional burden they are being put under to comply with more EU regulations, particularly as they have struggled in recent years to deal with restricted quotas and reduced numbers of days they can go to sea as the EU Fisheries Council tries to reverse the overfishing of European waters.
For some the extra financial burden could be the last straw, and with the Eyemouth fleet in steady decline - now down to just 20+ boats, having to lay out several thousand pounds when their income is so uncertain is an added pressure that could be just too much for some.
Eyemouth fisherman Billy Aitchison said: “You can’t get crew nowadays. My crew were earning between £16-20,000 a year about three or four years ago, last year they earned £7,000.
“You are basically a criminal when you leave the harbour now.
“It’s making fishermen the laughing stock. It’s just more expense for the fishermen and makes the job easier for Big Brother.
“Why is nobody standing up to these European politicians?”
Eyemouth fishermen have contacted Berwickshire MSP John Lamont and he has agreed to raise their concerns with Fisheries Minister, Richard Lochhead.
John Lamont MSP said this week: “I have been contacted by local fishermen who have concerns about the introduction of electronic log books.
“The fishermen are particularly concerned about the costs associated with their installation and running costs. I understand that there are grants available but only up to £2000. However, some fishermen are having to pay £7000 just to install the right equipment. These costs will add a significant burden to local fishermen and there is a real danger that it could cause some to go out of business.
“A further concern is that they are required to download the fishing log before landing in harbour. However, due to poor mobile phone reception, this is not always possible.”
“I have contacted Fisheries Minister Richard Lochhead to ask if there is anything that can be done to address these concerns. The local fishing industry has faced enough challenges in recent years without these additional costs.”
The Scottish Government website explains the use of the new electronic log books: “The Electronic recording and reporting system (ERS) is used to record, report, process, store and send fisheries data (catch, landing, sales and transhipment).
The key element is the electronic logbook where the master of a fishing vessel keeps a record of fishing operations. The record is then sent to the national authorities, which store the information in a secure data base.”
Electronic logbooks, transhipment declarations and landing declarations were required from vessels with an overall length of: 24 metres or more, as from January 1, 2010; more than 15 metres, where they operate outside EU waters, as from January 1, 2011. From July 1, 2011, fishing boats of 15 metres and more had to have the new equipment on board; and for boats of 12 metres or more, their deadline is January 1, 2012.
ERS regulations require that skippers complete their fishing logbooks each day before midnight and transmit this data back to its own FMC/Shore Authorities. The vessel’s “official” logbook will be left ashore in the databases of the shore authorities.
Compliance however, despite it being a criminal offence to contravene the regulations, has not been as high as expected. EU figures of 10,000 24-metre vessels across Europe expected to be converted to electronic logbook have proved to be somewhat wide of the mark and by January 2010 only 1000 vessels had registered.