New Thinking In A Positive Vision For Fishing Communities

The Scottish Government has just published their Strategy for Seafood . In its foreword it states:

‘We have a vision for Scotland as a world class fishing nation, delivering responsible and sustainable sea fisheries management.’

But what is the future for this valuable natural resource and our fishing grounds the envy of the world? What is the future for an inshore fleet with ageing vessels competing in an ever busy marine environment ?

An extensive body of research published only the day after the Scottish’ Government’s ‘Strategy for Seafood’, outlines the future for one of Scotland’s most successful but struggling fishing communities in ‘A Vision: The Clyde Fishery‘. It calls upon the Scottish Government to take into special consideration the Clyde Fisheries.

Research author, Fiona Matheson explained:

“Cumulative generational underinvestment and income reduction have produced pressures specific to this fishery. There is space for a complete reevaluation of the position of the entire Clyde fishery with input from all its constituent players and to act on new thinking such as this ‘Vision’ provides.”

Age of Fishing Vessels West Coast Fleet/ Scottish Fleet

Age of Fishing Vessels West Coast Fleet/ Scottish Fleet

The Clyde fleet is aging at almost twice the rate of vessels in other parts of Scotland but it shares the pressures our fisheries are experiencing in Orkney and Shetland too. These include the negative impacts arising out of:

  • Covid
  • The Russian/Ukraine War
  • Brexit
  • Fuel and energy costs

And the extremes of regulatory and non regulatory pressures

In looking to the future The Clyde Fisheries can see a way forward to reverse the decline in their sector.

The Strategy is proposing an ‘Integrated Clyde Fisheries Restructuring Body’ modelled on the Highlands and Islands Development Board of the 1970s and sees this as being ‘a catalyst for harnessing the many groups that will have an input into reversing population and youth population decline, and rebuild the fishery for a modern carbon conscious sustainable future.’

The research was funded by the Argyll and Ayrshire Fisheries Local Action Group of FLAG and its vision embraces a fishing sector which is sustainable and which is enabled to transition to a greener one. The way to do this is to work with the considerable and valuable knowledge of the fishing communities themselves.

Commenting on the document, Chair of Clyde Fishermen’s Trust, Kenny McNab said:

“I’m delighted with the formation of this strategy, which has been taken forward by the CFT with the support of the Argyll and Ayrshire FLAG.

“We have been at a crossroads in local fishing communities for sometime in many respects. Uncertainty is unsettling, particularly for enabling future fishing generations.

“The requirement is for joined up thinking and the need for fishing and coastal communities themselves to engage and present not only the numerous challenges they face, but crucially the numerous solutions they see for themselves based on lived experience.

“I sincerely hope policy makers and wider partners can take this long term Vision and adopt its key premises. We need to work together for overall improvement. We strongly believe fishing communities need to be active partners in planning their own future. We hope this Vision demonstrates our willingness to be part of a constructive way forward for coastal fishing communities”

The management of the fisheries requires this kind of vision . It further calls for legal protection of known fishing grounds ‘to prevent their removal from the food resilience assets of the community and the nation in order to stem the further loss of fishing grounds to developers who may appear a more lucrative prospect in the eyes of their Crown Estate landlords.’

What we are talking about here, is not only an extremely valuable natural food resource at a time when there is real threat to our food security but for the continuation of vibrant coastal and island communities.

Callum Elliot is a young skipper based within the Firth of Clyde. He said:

“The Vision document is exactly the type of positive plan which I’ve needed after the constant barrage of negative spin which has been cast upon the industry by well funded lobby groups. With the majority of my working life ahead of me the Vision document offers a pathway to continue sustainably fishing, providing employment for several young, local people within a fragile, rural community.”

In 2021 Scottish fishing vessels landed 437 thousand tonnes of sea fish and shellfish with a gross value of £560 million. An increase of 15% in the real value and a 10% increase in the tonnage compared to 2020.

Scottish vessels landed 170 thousand tonnes of sea fish and shellfish worth £148 million abroad in 2021. Landings abroad make up 39% of tonnage and 26 per cent by value.

There are 2,082 active Scottish fishing vessels. 1,573 of those vessels are 10 meters or less. Only 1% of Scottish vessels are over 40 meters. When reference is made to our fishing industry by commentators, the media and politicians, they very often forget that in Scotland the sector supports these 1,573 small vessels which are family run. Their importance to the communities they support cannot be underestimated. Up against these fishing communities are well funded organisations with powerful lobbying tactics giving them access to politicians which the inshore fishers do not have. There is no one who cares more about the marine environment than those who rely on it to support their families.

Politicians at every level need to read this: A Vision The Clyde Fishery, and embrace its cooperative approach towards working together to save not just Scotland’s valuable fishing industry but our coastal and island communities.

Invest and work together for a sustainable and greener future.

Fiona Grahame

1 reply »

  1. The dedication and hard work of the author of this strategy is outstanding. Crucially it comes from a point of knowledge and there is much benefit in this work not only for the Clyde, but for other inshore fishing communities too. Excellent Vision