That was the message from Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, Richard Lochhead ahead of an EU Council negotiations in Brussels where discussions are scheduled on the EMFF, the funding stream set to replace the European Fisheries Fund (EFF) from 2014, as part of Common Fisheries Policy reform plans.
In relation to Sea Fisheries, Scottish fishing zone is 61 per cent of the UK fishing zone and ranks 7th for the size of Europe’s seas.
In relation to aquaculture, Scotland has 17 per cent of the EU total employment in aquaculture and 82 per cent of the UK total in this sector. And in terms of sales, 13 per cent of EU aquaculture sales by volume are Scottish, which equates to 86 per cent of the UK total.
It is vital for Scotland that the UK Government secures the best deal possible. At present the UK receives 3 per cent of the total EFF funding, with Scotland only receiving 40 per cent of that allocation.
The Cabinet Secretary stressed it is absolutely crucial to Scotland’s interests that the funding package Scotland receives appropriately reflects our share of the industry within the UK and that any reduction in funding would be disastrous for our vulnerable coastal communities.
Speaking ahead of the EU Council Mr Lochhead said: "The package of measures agreed to in the ambitious reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), which we hope will lead to sustainable fishing with discards being tackled and fisheries management decisions being taken locally, was based on the understanding that the new EMFF will fully fund these plans.
"With more than £155 million of investment delivered through grants to date, the current EFF is delivering a diverse range of support for fishermen, processors, fishing communities and aquaculture sector. The fragility of our local coastal economies means that this support has been critical – and it must continue through the new EMFF.
"There are clear opportunities to improve and enhance the Sea Fisheries industry, not only dealing with challenges of discards and Maximum Sustainable Yield (MY), but placing the sector on a sound economic footing moving forward.
Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Paul Wheelhouse, who will attend the talks on Monday, added: "The Aquaculture industry has also been a success story in Scotland - 86 per cent of UK aquaculture sales are Scottish - but there is so much more to do if we want to ensure the industry increases its contribution to European food security, retains its quality status and continues to develop new markets. During the passage of the Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Act, I stated my belief that it delivers for Scotland the best regulatory framework for aquaculture in Europe, and this will support the sector’s aspirations for sustainable growth. However, the EMFF itself is an essential part of the policy mix and should be designed in a way that supports rather than constrains sustainable growth in aquaculture."
Mr Lochhead concluded: "Both sectors contribute economically to vulnerable communities and it is vital we ensure there are options to continue to support the economic development of these communities.
"Tough decisions need to be taken if we are to deliver genuine and wide-ranging reform of the CFP. The Scottish Government is ready to meet these challenges, but can’t do so with a weak, underfunded EMFF programme. So the importance of the new EMFF package to Scotland is clear. The UK Government must secure a good deal in these negotiations - we cannot support any reduction which will impact disproportionately on Scotland. We need a fair deal that supports Scotland’s fishermen and our thriving aquaculture sector."