Support for the fishing sector –

Support for the fishing sector Published:  14 April, 2009

Extra funding to improve the scientific assessments of fish stocks in the west of Scotland has been unveiled.

During a visit to Stornoway today, Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead announced that an additional £200,000 will be used to bolster surveys of fish stocks on the west coast.

Mr Lochhead also confirmed that a joint forum between industry and Scottish scientists is being set up.

Both moves will ensure the science which underpins quota allocations is as accurate and precise as possible, which will in turn contribute to Scotland’s seas being more sustainable – a benefit to fishermen and all those who use and enjoy the marine environment.

The package is part of the deal the Scottish Government negotiated in Brussels in December to safeguard whitefish stocks on the west coast of Scotland. Ministers and officials worked with the industry to avoid the potentially devastating closure of the west coast, including the area’s lucrative nephrops fishery.

In another sign of support for the industry, the Scottish Government has encouraged applications to the European Fisheries Fund from west coast fishermen. Bids have been streamlined and prioritised, assisting fleets with the purchase of more selective gear required by the December Council deal.

Speaking after meeting industry representatives in Stornoway today, Mr Lochhead said:

“The measures for the west of Scotland agreed at December Council undoubtedly poses a tough challenge for our fleets, particularly in the current difficult economic environment. The industry has asked for clear guidance as they set about implementing them and we are helping them do that.

“The industry has been very supportive of improving the science on west of Scotland fish stocks. We have listened and responded and will provide an additional £200,000 of funding to bolster scientific assessments and to set up a joint science forum, involving industry expertise.

“We are acutely aware that the measures agreed in Brussels involve challenges for the sector. We have previously announced additional measures to help fishermen adjust during the tough economic climate and are pressing the UK and Europe to recognise the efforts of our fleets and offer them a light at the end of the tunnel.

“We are also prioritising and streamlining applications under the European Fisheries Fund (EFF) to help with the purchase of more to improve conservation efforts.

“Fishermen who have applied for funding to assist with the purchase of more selective gear to be used on the west coast should hear the outcome of their applications in the next ten working days.”

Paul Fernandes, sea fisheries group leader at Marine Scotland, said:

“In the last few years we have built excellent working relationships with fishermen. Examples of this include the Scottish Industry Science Partnership scheme and the development of surveys for anglerfish and megrim all around Scotland.

“The anglerfish surveys are lauded around Europe as models of cooperation with industry and robust science. We hope that we can continue to build on the success of these relationships in the new initiatives on the west coast.”

Marine Scotland’s leading scientists advise that one of the most effective ways of improving science would be to produce better stock surveys. There are a number of elements to this, including greater involvement of the industry in designing the surveys and interpreting the results. To ensure sufficient resources are in place to undertake an industry-led, science-based survey of the west coast, involving up to three chartered commercial fishing vessels, the Scottish Government is making an additional £200,000 available to the Science Division of Marine Scotland for the project.

The Scottish Government has streamlined the application process for selective gear required to be used to the west of Scotland. Several applications are currently being processed with the outcome likely to be known in the next ten working days.

During today’s visit, Mr Lochhead also welcomed the news that the Stornoway Western Isles Langoustine Fishery has become the first of its type in the world to achieve Marine Stewardship Council certification as a sustainable and well-managed fishery.

Mr Lochhead said:

“I am delighted that the Stornoway Western Isles Langoustine Fishery has achieved this gold standard of sustainability. I want to congratulate warmly everyone involved in securing this fantastic achievement.

“This is a timely boost for our Western Isles fishing communities in these difficult economic times and it gives everyone concrete proof that when they are choosing Stornoway langoustines, they are buying a top-quality product from the most sustainable source possible.”