Finnie: Industry's future is bright, despite challenges – Fishupdate.com

Finnie: Industry’s future is bright, despite challenges Published:  12 October, 2006

Alex West, President of SFF and Ross Finnie, Fisheries Minister

FISHERIES Minister, Ross Finnie, told guests at the annual SFF dinner last night that although there were challenges ahead, he was optimistic about the future of the Scottish fishing industry.

Reiterating Bertie Armstrong’s earlier sentiments he stated: “In Scotland we are surrounded by some of the most productive seas in the world. We are one of Europe’s largest fishing nations and thanks to the actions we have taken, nearly all of our stocks are being fished sustainably. Consumers are increasingly demanding seafood that is high quality, good value, and sustainably fished. We in Scotland are very well placed to supply exactly this first-class seafood.”

He is aware, however, of the challenges the industry faces in the coming years, but believes the sector is “planning effectively for a better future rather than following some inevitable path of decline and decay.”

His speech highlighted factors that have affected the Scottish fishing industry: “One of the main causes for optimism is landing prices in the fish markets. I am very pleased that the market has, at least in part, rewarded the industry for improved transparency and compliance. While very welcome, I realise that these price increases won’t have transformed the balance sheet overnight. They have caused difficulties for your key partners, the processors, and they haven’t solved the problems of a disjointed supply chain.

“The high cost of fuel continues to pose real problems. Prices seem set to remain high, so we need long-term solutions like more efficient engines and fuel-efficient gears and methods. We in SEERAD are ready to sit down with you and Seafish to take this forward, including, importantly, the scope for supporting these changes from the EFF.”

Mr Finnie went on to mention the SeaFAR action plan: “Firstly, a formal industry-science partnership will be established, building on existing collaboration and the programme we had in 2001 and 2002. It will put the emphasis on looking at the scientific questions you in the industry want answers to. The details are still to be to be worked up but SEERAD is funding some pilot projects this year.

“Also on the theme of improved communication and cooperation, the SFPA is going to develop a programme of regular stakeholder liaison at national and local level, starting with a series of port visits. This will enable the agency to explain their approach to enforcement in depth and to listen to the views of the industry.

“SeaFAR also spent a great deal of time considering the quota management system and the price of quota.

“Government and industry are working on this together through the Quota Management Change Programme. My priority is to develop options for change that are appropriate for the Scottish industry, in the run up to full and formal consultation which will take place early next year. Decisions on any changes to the system will only be taken after that.”

On the subject of inshore fisheries, he said: “Our important inshore fisheries had a collaborative stragtegy and action plan long before SeaFAR. There has not been as much progress on the establishment of Inshore Fisheries Groups as I would have liked. But we remain fully committed to delegation of the management of inshore fisheries through IFGs, and I am encouraged by the fact that the newly named Hebridean IFG had the first meeting of its shadow Executive Committee last month.”

He further outlined the consultation process for the Coastal and Marine National Park proposal, which was launched yesterday by Rhona Brankin and himself. The proposal has sparked debate among those concerned about their local economies. However, he commented: “I want to give some reassurance about the impact a Park might have on local economies. I see a National Marine Park as a driver for local sustainable development. And I see no contradiction in Inshore Fisheries Group management plans complementing the aims of a Coastal and Marine National Park. The rationale for a National Park would be to bring greater national and international recognition and value to area chosen and to produce that comes from the area.”

In line with recent concerns about the damage inflicted in the deep-sea community by the fishing industry, Mr Finnie stated: “we must support the conservation of the true deep sea stocks that are in most difficulty. But, we must also try to maintain fishing opportunities when we can do so, without prejudicing conservation objectives.

Ending on a positive note, Mr Finnie concluded: “It seems to me that events this year show that co-operation and mutual respect make us better able to tackle the challenges facing this important industry. Within Scotland we have co-operated to produce the SeaFAR Action Plan and to implement new management arrangements for the inshore fisheries. Outwith Scotland we have worked hard to build co-operation, understanding and respect notably with the Commission. To return to my theme, I believe these activities give us all grounds for real optimism about the future of Scottish sea fisheries.”

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