Government support essential to secure a future for Scottish fishing, says SFF –

Government support essential to secure a future for Scottish fishing, says SFF Published:  21 March, 2012

Bertie Armstrong

The Scottish fishing industry is facing an acute set of challenges this year and the Scottish and UK Governments must do everything in their power to support the sector during these difficult times, Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation will tell Scots Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead at a meeting with the SFF at the ‘Fishing, Aquaculture and Seafood Expo – from Sea to Plate’ event in Glasgow tomorrow (Thursday 22 March).

Mr Armstrong will underline that the Scottish fishing industry is committed to working closely with Government to develop sustainable solutions, but to do so there must be a real will amongst decision-makers at the highest level to secure a future for Scottish fishing.

Speaking before the meeting, Mr Armstrong said: “The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation strongly requests that the political approach to the future and wellbeing of the UK’s fishing industry is based upon a ‘presumption for sustainable fishing’.

“This must translate into an action plan, to influence fisheries management decision making at all levels – internationally with third countries, within Europe and nationally inside the UK and in Scotland.  From the fishing industry side, there is a commitment to highlight problems, innovate for solutions and make every effort to influence fisheries management decisions for the good.”

An area of critical concern is the draconian limit on the number of days that prawn and whitefish vessel can put to sea as part of the Long Term Plan for cod.

“We are now well past the point of diminishing returns, and real but needless economic damage is threatening the very viability of the industry,” said Mr Armstrong.

“The cod plan itself is up for revision and this is a glaring necessity.  That process will take time and whatever happens on this front during the year, it will be necessary to resist any further automatic reductions for 2013 and beyond.  The industry has been participating fully in both meeting the aims of cod recovery and contributing to the revision of the plan, but it will be necessary for government to adopt the objective of resisting any further reductions in days at sea from now and during the revision process.  In practical terms, the Scottish industry is leading the way in developing selective fishing to meet the twin objectives of reducing both cod mortality and discarding, and will continue to do so.”

Mr Armstrong will also highlight that a key objective this year will be to secure a favourable outcome during the reform process of the Common Fisheries Policy. The meaningful regionalisation of fisheries management must be at the heart of the new CFP, and for this to be secured, co-operation between industry and government is essential.

In a bid to improve fisheries management decisions, the Scottish fishing industry is keen to assist in the collation of scientific information on fish stocks, given the current significant lack of data. Utilising the services of the fishing fleet makes more sense than ever against the current background of public expenditure cuts.

Mr Armstrong concluded: “The fundamental components for economic success – fish to catch sustainably and the time to catch them are not well provided or managed at the moment. Much can be done by industry and government working together to secure a future for Scottish fishing.”