The distribution of fishing quotas across the UK has been described as “vastly unequal and mismanaged”, by campaigners.
Greenpeace said its own study found a small number of wealthy families “control huge swathes of fishing rights” around the country to the detriment of local fishermen.
It claimed 29% of the UK’s fishing quota is owned or controlled by just five families, leading to unsustainable fishing.
But the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) said it painted a false picture and that sustainability is “the number one priority for the industry”.
Will McCallum, head of oceans at Greenpeace UK, said: “This stunning sell-off of British waters by our own Government is a national disgrace and an economic, social and environmental tragedy.
“Successive governments have presided over a monumental mismanagement of this precious public resource – destroying the livelihoods of local, inshore, fishermen, eroding coastal communities and encouraging unsustainable fishing, while allowing a wealthy cabal of fishing barons to become the UK’s Codfathers.
“How long before the Government stops blaming other countries, looks at its own broken system, accepts responsibility for fixing it and creates a fairer and more sustainable distribution of fishing quota across the UK? With the Fisheries Bill rumoured to be just weeks away, there has never been a better opportunity to do just this.”
A Defra spokeswoman said: “We are clear fishing communities and our wider economy should benefit as much as possible from those fishing the UK’s quota, and we are working closely with fishermen to review and reform the rules around the economic link condition.”
SFF chief executive Bertie Armstrong said: “Once again, Greenpeace is guilty of painting a completely false picture of the UK fishing industry to match its particular prejudices.
“Sustainability has for many years been the number one priority for the industry, and many sacrifices have been made to reach the present position where for key stocks catches are at record or near record high levels while pressure on those stocks from fishing vessels is at a record low, as testified by recent academic study.
“Studies also show that for pelagic species large vessels which require massive capital investment are significantly more environmentally-friendly than a fleet of smaller vessels, not to mention safer in wild offshore winter seas where and when much of the catching of this type takes place.
“The only thing that has eroded our coastal communities is a blatantly inequitable EU Common Fisheries Policy which awards other fishing nations 60% of our fish stocks.”