Inshore fisheries groups to start – Fishupdate.com

Inshore fisheries groups to start Published:  03 March, 2008

John Hermse

SCOTTISH fishermen are to be given more responsibility for running their own industry later this year, with the first inshore fisheries groups to be set up in three areas early in the summer.

The proposals, first mooted in November 2005 by the previous Labour-Lib Dem coalition, should have seen the first three pilot areas established in the spring of 2006. This was prevented by a number of delays, although a lot of preparatory work was done in the Western Isles especially, which, together with the area between Eyemouth and Montrose, were to be the first pilot area for the scheme.

Fishermen’s representatives and Scottish Government officials have agreed a constitution for the groups, following a meeting last week, which will comprise a wide range of stakeholders from the fishermen themselves to conservation and scientific interests, and the first three groups are expected to start in the Clyde area, the south-east of Scotland and in the Western Isles. Another three could start simultaneously or shortly after the first three in North-west Scotland, Mull and the Small Isles and in the Moray Firth. It is expected that 12 IFGs will be established around the Scottish coast. The policy of the IFGs will be set nationally, with local objectives set by the IFGs themselves to reflect different priorities in different areas. Secondary legislation will be introduced by the Scottish Government where this is required to introduce management plans.

The IFGs will include representatives from scientific organisations, conservation and environmental protection bodies, tourism, aquaculture, The Crown Estate, the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency, development agencies and local authorities as well as a number of fishermen’s organisations. The Scottish Government has agreed to pay for a national coordinator for the IFG and for three local coordinators for the first three groups to be established.

John Hermse, secretary of the Mallaig and North-west Fishermen’s Association, welcomed the progress made and said there now seemed to be a shared willingness among environmentalists and fishermen to make the IFGs work. “This will allow each area to manage their own fisheries in the way that best suits their own communities. The Islands for example are very reliant on getting their produce transported to markets elsewhere. They can often be the victim of gluts in other areas and they could benefit from a marketing campaign to ensure that more fish and shellfish were sold in Scotland. The stock should also be managed to maintain the levels coming onto the market and so maintain the price,” he said.

The IFGs in the Highlands and Islands will also use the scientific expertise available through the various colleges that form the UHI Millennium Institute, to establish stock levels and to give guidance on sustainable levels of fishing.

Mr Hermse said: “We will get help from the Marine Lab in the north-east but we will also be asking the scientists at Dunstaffnage and the college in Shetland to help. We need to keep a constant watch on stock levels so that we can forecast what will be poor years. If the fishermen and scientists spot poor recruitment of a particular year class, then we can predict what will happen in following years. That will allow fishermen to switch to other fisheries quickly in poor years. That will allow the poorer stocks to recover. Fishermen are conservation-minded because it is in their own long-term interest to have a sustainable industry. The IFGs will allow us to manage the fishing industry sensibly and fishermen will buy into it, rather than be the victims of crazy decisions, which appear to have very little science or knowledge behind them.”

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