Scottish government exploring innovative fisheries conservation –

Scottish government exploring innovative fisheries conservation Published:  31 July, 2007

Richard Lochhead

A NEW ground breaking initiative to conserve North Sea fish stocks is being explored by the Scottish government and the fishing industry.

Speaking ahead of his visit to Fraserburgh today, Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, said he was discussing with industry representatives a voluntary scheme of “real time closures”.

Under such a proposal, which has widespread industry support, skippers at sea would themselves sound the alert when they encounter stocks of small cod.

Voluntary closure would then apply to protect these stocks, which if caught at present, have to be discarded.

Mr Lochhead said: “The new Scottish government pledged at the outset a fresh start for Scotland’s fisheries.

“That means fresh thinking and taking the lead. We have been discussing with industry bodies a range of proactive measures to help the recovery of cod stocks.

“There is strong support for developing a system of voluntary real-time closures of sea areas with a high abundance of juvenile cod.

“Skippers themselves would be closely involved in the development and assessment of such a scheme, ensuring best use is made of real-time information and action.

“Fishermen recognise their obligations to safeguard their futures and are already leading Europe in fisheries conservation. This is yet another example of their leadership and forward thinking.

“I am keen to see a formal proposal worked up with the industry over the coming weeks. I also plan to raise this as Cabinet Secretary in my forthcoming discussions with Norway, Denmark and other countries.

“This is a very good opportunity for Scotland take the international lead with an innovative approach, which can make a real difference. Sensible conservation of a valuable fishing stock is in everybody’s long term interest. All our futures depend on it.”

Bertie Armstrong, Chief Executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, added: “The best, most effective measures for protection of fish stocks are those with industry support from all nationalities in that fishery. This plan has all the right ingredients and we will work hard to help shape the ideas into practical reality.”

Helen McLachlan, Senior Marine Policy Officer for WWF, also commented: “WWF welcomes this initiative as a positive step towards combating the wasteful capture of juvenile cod. It seems quite obvious that small fish need to be left to grow to maturity when they can help recover the population. Hopefully this measure will help this happen.

“It is clear that for cod to recover effectively, other measures are needed, but this is an important initiative which will hopefully gain the involvement of other EU countries and Norway to maximise its effectiveness.”

Mike Park, Executive Chairman of the Scottish Whitefish Producers Association, concluded: “My association welcomed this initiative and my members continue to support sustainable development, including constructive ideas such as ‘Real Time Closures’ to protect small cod.

“This pilot project is seen by our members as one of a number of measures to achieve a balanced equation between stock regeneration and economic opportunity.” is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.