Prawn and white fish fishermen in Scotland have faced tough conditions in recent years with high fuel prices, export markets under pressure and the EU’s Cod Recovery Plan (CRP) having a detrimental effect. The dramatic fall in the availability of prawns has also caused the fleet to experience exceptionally hard times so far this year.
The five-point action plan includes the following measures underpinned by up to £6 million in funding:
- The establishment of a £3 million hardship fund for fishermen who may be facing exceptional stresses on their viability
- An invitation to vessels to trial a discard-free prawn fishery this year by fishing with gears that eliminate whitefish by-catch. These vessels will have additional time at sea to catch their quotas where necessary, and we will look to secure, through European funding, a guaranteed income as they adapt to new ways of working
It also encompasses:
- Alternative support for vessels not joining the discard free trial, with help to develop new fishing gears and measures to achieve the discard reduction targets
- Removing, where possible, barriers that stop fishermen diversifying into alternative sustainable fisheries
- Measures (and potentially additional funding) to promote our seafood sector and develop a Scottish brand to support the onshore sector in maximising economic growth
Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead, who made the announcement as he visited the North Atlantic Fisheries College in Shetland, said: "The fishing industry is very important to Scotland’s economy and contributed £500 million last year. It is the lifeblood of many local communities supporting over 5,000 coastal jobs across Scotland including many here in Shetland.
"Scottish seafood is famed across Europe and our fishermen are being applauded for blazing a trail in terms of fisheries conservation but there are many big challenges facing one of our most vital sectors.
"Issues such as volatile international markets and environmental factors such as a scarcity of prawns appearing on the grounds have meant many fishermen have been experiencing exceptionally tough times. And all this at time when regulatory changes such as the transition to discard free fisheries are just around the corner.
"The Scottish Government wants to support our fishing industry and their communities as they seek to overcome short term challenges. We also want to help fishermen adapt to a future where they will no longer discard any of their catch.
"As we work together to implement this action plan, we will also discuss what further steps can be taken by industry and Government to strengthen the resilience and adaptability of businesses in the fishing industries."
Welcoming the action plan, Bertie Armstrong, Chief Executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said:
"There are some very severe and specific challenges facing the Scottish prawn and whitefish fleets. This action plan demonstrates the Government's recognition of that and the 5 headlines closely reflect the recent tough discussions with industry.
"Frustratingly, some of the critical problems such as fuel price and external regulation are outside government and industry direct control, however, there is much that can be done and we look forward to developing with government the offered actions as soon as possible."