THE main focus for both the Scottish and UK Governments must be on supporting Scotland’s fishing industry, SFF President Ross Dougal told guests at the Federation’s annual dinner last night.
He explained that this was crucial in order to create an environment where the fleet can prosper and concentrate on its prime business of supplying a nutritious and sustainable food.
Dougal also told the event, which was attended by Scots Fisheries Minister, Richard Lochhead, and other leading industry figures, that in a time of great political change and uncertainty the industry requires full governmental support and the last thing it needs is the distraction of political point scoring.
‘We will work closely with the governments of the day, looking for the best outcome for the Scottish fishing industry,’ he said. ‘We expect to see what governments can do for fishing and not the other way round.’
The SFF has been fully involved in the Smith Commission consultation on greater devolved powers for Scotland, and Dougal added:
‘We are fully supportive of the Scottish fishing minister taking the lead in fisheries negotiations where appropriate, but equally it is important that governments on both sides of the border work closely together so as to ensure the best possible deal for the fishing industry.
‘The SFF’s only focus is on what is best for the catching sector and all our associated onshore industries, and this should be the priority of our governments too. We are not interested in the process of political point scoring.’
Dougal added that the SFF has been taking a lead role in scientific initiatives and where its management of observer programmes was having a tangible impact on stock assessment and fisheries management.
He also praised the support from both the Scottish and UK governments in helping achieve the recent EU Council decision to allow the ‘banking’ of mackerel quota so as to mitigate the impact of Russian trade sanctions.
However, Dougal also warned that ‘The landing obligation, or discard ban as it is known, is without doubt the single biggest threat facing our industry today.
‘Our mackerel and herring fisheries will be the first to feel its impact on 1 January 2015 and it is vital that there is a level playing field where all participants in these international fisheries work under the same compliance regulations.’