Fisheries is at the heart of the Scottish Government’s three overarching aims of creating more, better paid jobs in a strong sustainable economy, building a fairer Scotland by tackling inequalities and passing power to people and communities.
Top of the agenda for the fishing industry is the landing obligation or ‘discard ban’, the ongoing review of quota management, and continuing work on the inshore fisheries strategy.
Speaking ahead of his visit to Shetland, Richard Lochhead said: “The fishing industry is very important to Scotland’s economy and contributes over £400 million in revenues a year. It supports a lot of jobs in Shetland, it is great to hear that the fishing has been good over the last year, with further quota increases across many of our key stocks promising to keep businesses buoyant.
“This brings confidence and it’s great to learn that new vessels are being brought into the Shetland fleet and that Shetland has just had its record year for fishing. I’m hopeful that we can see revenues grow further, adding to fishermen’s bottom line and creating further good quality jobs.
“However we know there is more to do, which is why the Scottish Government will continue to support our fishing industry and their communities as they seek to overcome a variety of challenges.
“The landing obligation, or discard ban, is foremost among these. I’m clear that this needs to be implemented in a way which does not damage the viability of the fleet and which is workable for our fishermen. If we get it right, this measure will enable us to overcome the ecological madness of dumping perfectly good fish dead back into the sea, to the benefit of both fishers and consumers. But we need to implement it sensibly. That’s why I’m in Shetland to meet local skippers and understand from them what the real world issues are.
“I also want to discuss our current review of fish quota management, which goes to the heart of our aspirations to tackle inequalities in Scotland. Quotas are the lifeblood of this industry and we want to ensure they’re managed in the common interest, in a way that provides active fishermen with the access to quota that they need, rather than concentrating them in the hands of those with the deepest pockets.
“We want to create a platform for sustaining jobs and paving the way for the next generation of young skippers, by providing an environment in which new businesses can secure the quota they need to get off the ground and add to the health of Scotland’s fishing fleet, in a way which spreads the wealth offered by our abundant fishing grounds.
“Shetland’s fisheries are also a great example of the steps we’ve already taken to empower local communities. Shetland’s inshore fisheries have shown the way in how a local community can step up to managing its precious natural resources and they reflect our aspirations to support the renewal of coastal communities the length and breadth of the Scottish coast. Our national inshore fisheries programme is actively supporting these ambitions, from testing new technologies to researching new approaches to managing the interactions between mobile and static fishing vessels in the inshore environment.”