SCOTLAND’s largest fishing association has thrown its weight behind a new body created to play a bigger part in decisions affecting the industry made in Brussels.
The Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association (SWPA) has joined Blue Fish – the European Association for the Promotion of Sustainable and Responsible Fisheries – and chief executive Mike Park has been made its vice-president.
Blue Fish’s aim is to transform the image of the industry among politicians and policy-makers in the European Union.
Deploying evidence gathered by its own Scientific Council, it hopes to correct some of the misapprehensions about the industry that exist in the corridors of power in Brussels.
In particular, Blue Fish will highlight the fact that as a result of methods adopted by the industry the majority of species in North East Atlantic Fishing grounds are now at maximum sustainable yield (MSY) levels. MSY is a yardstick used to show that stocks are being fished sustainably.
Mr Park said: ‘For too long environmental NGOs have had the upper hand in Brussels, influencing policy with good intentions but often disastrous results.
‘We only have to look at the landings obligation or discards ban to see how things can go awry. None of our fishermen want to throw back healthy fish, but a ban on doing so has to be made workable and as things stand it is likely to bankrupt many boats.
‘Blue Fish is all about promoting responsible and durable fisheries policy, balancing the protection of the marine ecosystem with the protection of marine jobs and activity.
‘We will do this by sharing knowledge and good practices that enable us to have sustainable and responsible fisheries around our coastal communities.’
A new EU Fisheries Commissioner will be appointed in November. A new PECH or Fisheries Committee of MEPs has already been formed and will meet for the first time early next month.
Mr Park added: ‘It’s critical that we work hard to demonstrate to officials and new and returning MEPs that fishing is a much leaner, more environmentally-friendly industry than it is portrayed by environmentalists.
‘But we will do this using powerful evidence and eschewing rhetoric to ensure a productive, sustainable future for this ancient and noble activity.’
Blue Fish was launched by the two biggest fishing ports in France – Lorient and Boulogne sur Mer – and now has members in Scotland, England, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Germany.
As well as representing fishermen, it speaks for port management organisations, research institutes, educational bodies, public institutions and local authorities.