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SFF Calls For A New Vision For Scottish Fishing


SCOTLAND, UK - A fresh vision for Scottish fishing is at the heart of a manifesto launched today by the Scottish Fishermens Federation outlining the main points of action that the newly-elected Scottish Government must address after the May election.

The manifesto ‘Scottish Sea Fisheries and the next Scottish Government – Facing the Challenges’ says that those seeking election must embrace their future responsibilities by meeting the challenges and assisting the future development of the Scottish fishing industry.

Bertie Armstrong, SFF chief executive said: “A refreshed vision is required from government for the Scottish Fishing Industry. In its absence, policymaking and reaction to events will be short sighted. Specifically, this vision must identify within realistic limits what size and shape of fleet would best serve Scotland.

“The SFF believes that the new government should aspire to ensure where realistically possible the financial viability of the existing fleet by avoiding artificially created and unnecessary reductions. The vision, once formed, must direct the strong efforts of government in shaping national and international policy, thereby avoiding enslavement to it. Proper recognition of Scottish initiatives and sacrifices must occur.”

Other key elements of the manifesto are:

The structure of the industry and its linkage to communities must bear greater influence on policy-making. Scotland’s diverse fisheries are embedded in local communities and policy development must take this into account, including a consistent government push for meaningful regional control in the imminent reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.

Sustainable catching opportunity must be a primary focus. As a core government function, there needs to be a renewed focus on pursuing sustainable catching opportunity, looking forward to stock improvements in the future. While it is absolutely essential that due attention is paid to all the diverse aspects of fisheries management and regulation, and to our stewardship responsibilities for the environment, we must not lose sight of the fact that we are harvesting food.

A new focus on fisheries science. Decisions on catching opportunity are based upon stock science. However, for a significant proportion of stocks important to the Scottish industry this is inadequate and there has always been a really unhelpful time lag. Furthermore, there is a considerable gap between fishermen’s conception of stock abundance, in the light of their daily experience, and the science. This gap must be closed. The only avenue of progress will be a much closer collaboration between industry and the science community. The industry is willing and eager to play its part and government must make facilitation of this a top priority.

Responsible Marine Spatial Planning. For a number of obvious reasons there is strong pressure to facilitate renewable energy development before the framework for managing the seas is actually in place. The next government must ensure that sober balance prevails in allocating sea space to new development; proper account must be taken of existing use, including, most especially, the harvesting of seafood.

A renewed team approach. This will be an essential in the development of Scottish fishing and its representation on UK and international platforms. Experience has long since demonstrated that those nations whose industries and government have common purpose do best in the pursuit of opportunity and good governance. Over the last few years Scotland has demonstrably done better than many nations in government/industry cooperation. However, as a consequence of the mounting challenges facing the industry, in particular that of financial viability in some sectors, this has become more difficult. The new government must take the opportunity of an overall fresh start to build the trust and cooperation that will foster success.

Meanwhile, there are a number of other pressing challenges the forthcoming Government must address, including CFP Reform and the review of the Cod Recovery Plan. Other priority areas are:

The behaviour of Iceland and Faeroes in grossly over-fishing mackerel. With Iceland taking the lead, both these nations are engaged in a process of holding a major healthy stock in the north-east Atlantic to ransom, hoping to be awarded a completely disproportionate new share. Their actions, if continued, threaten the stock itself and are having an immediate effect on two important sectors of the Scottish industry.

Discarding. This is an emotive subject, usually dealt with superficially. Discarding is not universal. It is the symptom of the greater disease of an inability to lay regulation that deals well with mixed fisheries. Scotland has played a leading role in making anti-discarding progress and must continue under the new government to do so.

Perception of the Scottish fishing industry. Until the recent past, much of the public’s perception of the industry is based on hostile media coverage that is, in general, superficial or applicable to fisheries other than our own. Some inroads have been made, but much more needs to be done to present a realistic picture of a sustainable, responsible industry comprising many different sectors, working hard to solve its problems.

Bertie Armstrong concluded: “Serious effort, investment and sacrifice have supported the aspiration of a sustainable Scottish industry, harvesting wonderful food products, working with and supporting its local communities. As we approach the polls, those seeking election must embrace their future responsibility to meet the challenges and assist the development of the Scottish fishing industry.”