The Future for Scotland’s Fisheries

map of international boundaries

Map of international boundaries by Andmoreagain0815

One of the greatest natural resources Scotland has are the seas around its shores. Whether or not Brexit takes place what happens to the future of Scotland’s fisheries is being examined by both the UK and the Scottish Governments.

Currently the management of the sector is done by the Scottish Government although it is the UK Government who negotiates access rights through the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

The UK Government’s Fisheries Bill (published 25th of October 2018)

This Bill covers the fishing and aquaculture industries. Brexit has taken up huge chunks of time in the UK Parliament so at the moment this Bill is stuck waiting to go to the ‘Report’ stage. The date for its 3rd reading has also not been announced. Brexit chaos has put a lot of legislation on ‘hold.’

The Fisheries’ Bill gives the power to the UK Government to decide the total allowable catches for all UK waters each year. Although the UK Government will attempt to reach agreement with the devolved administrations the Bill includes Henry VIII powers which means the UK Government could impose legislation without the consent of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Westminster Hall Debate, UK Parliament, Wednesday 13 March 2019

Future Management of Fisheries in Scotland: national discussion paper

The Scottish Government has published a discussion paper for the Fisheries sector in Scotland.: Discussion Paper

Fergus EwingFergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy in the Scottish Government, stated in the introduction to the paper that he saw it as:

” a catalyst for us to move forward together, to develop ideas and suggestions which can help deliver an inclusive, productive partnership approach.”

The aim of the paper is to address a range of ideas and proposals for a sustainable future for fisheries in Scotland.

“Our overarching objective will be to maintain the long term structure of small family owned businesses to support and increase inclusive long term economic growth of the Scottish fishing industry.”

Scotland has the  National Marine Plan and the management of Scotland’s Fisheries would have to fit into that.

” many of the requirements set out in EU legislation reflect international commitments that the UK has made. As a result, any future marine plans for Scotland will need to be compatible with relevant international commitments.”

Until the future relationship between the UK and the EU is decided, to Brexit or not to Brexit, then the impact that decision will have on the National Marine Plan is unknown.

The Key Principles of the Future of Fisheries discussion paper

  • Maintain our commitment to relevant international law and working with other nations to ensure sustainability
  • Manage our fisheries in a way that protects biological diversity and which ensures that marine ecosystems continue to provide economic, social and wider benefits  for people, communities and industry
  • Ensure that the interests of all marine and seafood sectors, including small businesses, are taken into account to ensure sustainable and inclusive economic growth
  • Set fishing limits in line with the best available scientific advice, using the precautionary principle, and aligned with the delivery of Maximum Sustainable Yield within an ecosystem context, in line with International obligations
  • Contribute to international fish stock data collection and analysis and seek to improve the quality of our data and evidence base
  • Take a sensible and proportionate approach to minimising discards and tackling unnecessary waste
  • Create an environment where fishing is seen as an attractive career of choice which will help alleviate some of the current crewing challenges
  • Support fishing and onshore seafood industries of all sizes to grow sustainably, and be internationally competitive, through building and maintaining access to markets

Responding to the consultation

Online: Scottish Sea Fisheries National Discussion Paper

In writing: Scottish Government, Sea Fisheries Division, Future Fisheries Management Discussion Paper, Victoria Quay, Edinburgh EH6 6QQ

The closing date is 7th of June 2019

What about those who work on our vessels at sea?

At the moment all EU countries recognise the seafaring certificates of each other. If there is a no deal then  certificates already granted will be acceptable until they expire. In the worst case scenario of a no deal, EU countries may chose not to recognise any new ones issued by the UK COC (Certificate of Competency) . This would mean that  a UK trained seafarer would not be able to work on board vessels flagged with those EU countries. The Seafarer’s union, Nautilus is advising its members who have endorsements on their CoCs from other EU member states, to renew those endorsements as soon as possible.”

Mark Dickinson,Nautilus general secretary,  said:

“Brexit has already put UK seafarer certificates at risk and the ongoing uncertainty is forcing the hand of large businesses – it has created a perfect storm, threatening the current and future employment of UK-based workers.”

This warning came as P & O announced the reflagging of all its short sea  vessels to Cyprus   and Maersk taking its remaining vessels off the UK Ship Register and exiting the UK Tonnage Tax. Maersk will also end the training of UK Cadets which will have a serious impact on seafarer jobs and the stability of the UK industry.

Brexiteers and those in Fishing for Leave claimed that leaving the EU will produce a ‘Sea of Opportunity’ – time will soon tell who the beneficiaries of the opportunities will be.

June 20th Kirkwall Harbour

Photo Kirkwall Harbour K Armet

Reporter: Fiona Grahame



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