The uncertainty overhanging the Fishing Industry in Scotland was raised during a debate in the Scottish Parliament on the 11th of December.
Fergus Ewing, the Fisheries Secretary in the Scottish Government said:
“I am dismayed that the United Kingdom Government’s negotiations with the European Union have still not delivered the clarity on a host of critical issues that all of us individuals, communities, industry and Governments—badly need.”
The annual negotiations between the UK Government, rEU, Norway and other fishing nations are well underway. The UK Government is responsible for these negotiations – the Scottish Government manages what has been decided.
Species of fish have different allowable amounts which can be caught and the negotiations also decide how these are divvied out between other fishing nations which use Scottish waters. The amounts of species allowed is to allow stocks to recover and to prevent over fishing. The UK Government then negotiates with rEU and the other fishing nations to decide the quota each nation is permitted. There will be a 33% cut in cod which can be caught, 31% for Haddock, 36% cut to herring and 20% cut to mackerel.
Fergus Ewing indicated his concern with the negotiations:
“I’m particularly concerned about the arrangements outlined for West of Scotland Cod and Whiting, which is why the delegation has to consider the brokering of a workable solution for those stocks as its highest priority.
“I am disappointed at the outcome of the recently concluded EU Norway negotiations, which appear to have pushed aside the need to prioritise critical landing obligation issues of North Sea stocks, in favour of a deal that is neither fair nor acceptable to Scotland’s fishing industry – particularly in regards to the source of the Blue Whiting currency and the destination of the incoming Arctic Cod. “
Peter Chapman MSP, Conservative, said during the debate that he was speaking on behalf of the Fishing Industry. He was not pleased about the cuts to the quota allowable to the Scottish fleet and said:
“There is also now real concern about the number of foreign vessels that operate in Scottish seas, mostly in the waters around Shetland.
“A recent survey carried out by the industry found a total of 122 foreign vessels in Shetland waters. They consisted of 19 UK foreign-flagged vessels, 12 Spanish, 33 Norwegian, eight German, 27 French and 23 Danish vessels.
“All those foreign vessels were targeting white fish. To give members an idea of scale, I point out that the Scottish fleet has only 85 vessels that do the same. That is a significant increase in the number of foreign vessels over previous years.
“It seems that other EU member states have exhausted their own stocks and are encroaching in Scottish seas north and west to catch various species that we have worked hard over a number of years to protect and rebuild.”
He hit out at the Scottish Government and the Labour Party for suggesting that the Tories were selling out the Fishing Industry. He again stressed the need to leave the EU, come out of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and seize the sea of opportunity. He reminded the Scottish Parliament that all the Tory MSPs had signed the fishermen’s pledge.
Rhoda Grant MSP, Labour, said that the negotiations were crucial and looked forward to ways to help the future of the industry. She said:
“We need to build the foundations for the future of the industry, and we must plan how to reap the highest economic impact from that future for our rural communities. We must build the workforce and infrastructure that we need in order that we can do that. To miss that opportunity would be to let down future generations.”
The Scottish Greens’ MSP Mark Ruskell raised the issue of the illegal scallop dredging and the damage that has done and he wanted to see improved tracking and monitoring of the fishing fleet.
Tavish Scott MSP, Liberal Democrat reminded the Chamber that Shetland exports £300million every year in sea foods. He was particularly concerned with the negotiations with the Faroes as they fish in Shetland’s seas.
The Conservative MSPs continued to speak about how concerned they were with the Fisheries negotiations.
Brexit loomed over this whole debate even though the ‘intention’ was that it should not. It was unavoidable – the Brexit Deal Theresa May has agreed with the EU negotiators clearly states that any future arrangements for a future UK/EU single market type agreement is dependent upon access to our fishing grounds.
You can read about that here: Taking Back Control?The Brexit Deal
Why are there fishing quotas?
Quotas exist to ensure that over fishing does not happen. It protects the marine environment and ensures that the industry is sustainable. The quotas take scientific advice from the International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES). This year ICES wanted more cuts in the allowable catch of species to take place.
The EU – the 28 countries – divide up the quota not only amongst their own fishing nations but also with other nations which fish our waters. The UK is still part of the EU and so it is represented in those negotiations with other nations as a member.
For example, on 29th of November the total allowable catch (TAC) agreed for mackerel between the EU, Norway and the Faroes (the latter 2 nations not members of the EU) is 653,438 tonnes – a 20% cut.
When the UK leaves the EU it will still have to negotiate fishing quotas. Although it will be an ‘independent coastal nation’ and outside of the EU and the CFP it still must negotiate with the EU and the other nations who wish to access our waters. The EU currently has several Bilateral agreements with other nations: Agreements on Fishing with Countries Outside the EU
The Scottish Government will have its officials present at the continued negotiations in Brussels next week and they will press the case for Scotland’s fishing industry, however, they are limited in what they can do. It is the UK Government who represent the UK Fishing Industry. It is their role in the negotiations which is the crucial one in the final decisions taken.
You can watch the whole debate here
Reporter: Fiona Grahame