Speaking ahead of today’s Holyrood parliamentary debate on Brexit and Scotland’s rural economy, Scottish fishing industry leaders claim that the EU referendum has handed the Scottish fishing industry an unparalleled opportunity to deliver a significant boost to investment and employment for our fragile coastal communities.
In a briefing paper for MSPs, the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) and Scottish Association of Fish Producer’s Organisations says the 200 miles Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) that will come into operation following the UK leaving the EU contains some of the most productive, valuable and diverse fisheries found anywhere in the world.
But at the moment well over half of the fish caught in this zone are caught by non-UK vessels.
‘By insisting on fairer shares of catching opportunities in these waters, with a more effective fisheries management regime geared to business and environmental sustainability, the Scottish government could impart powerful momentum to coastal and island communities at no cost to the taxpayer. The government might also wish to ‘top up’ this impetus with grant funding into innovation and areas of strategic interest,’ said SFF chief executive Bertie Armstrong.
‘Unlike many other industries based on the use of natural resources, responsibly managed fish catching could underpin coastal and island communities indefinitely. A reinvigorated catching sector could be expected to generate significant knock-on effects in investment and employment onshore, from marine engineering and electronics to seafood processing and distribution.’
He stressed that to achieve these opportunities for our coastal communities, Scottish and UK governments will have to prevent access to fishing grounds being conceded as part of the Brexit negotiations.
‘Control over access is the most powerful means we have of ensuring that our own natural resources are allocated fairly and to the best possible use. It’s time for Scotland’s two Governments to work together and deliver for coastal communities. If we get it right it can kickstart a secure and sustainable future for our fishermen, their families and the thousands who rely on the bounty of the sea for their livelihoods.This is a sea of opportunity that we must not squander.’