New measures to boost Scotland’s seafood sector and the wider supply chain have been set out by Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon.
This details how the fishing and aquaculture sectors are being supported to remain internationally competitive and attract skills and talent to some of Scotland’s most rural and coastal areas – despite the challenges of the post-Brexit trading environment.
The strategy also highlights ongoing work to monitor and manage the marine space, so that consumers can have confidence in the sustainability of Scottish seafood.
In addition, as a key part of its Fisheries Management Strategy, changes are being introduced to licence conditions for Scottish fishing vessels – to require greater landings of highly valuable fish species into Scotland, benefitting onshore industries like processors and hauliers.
From 1st January 2023, vessels over 10 metres landing stocks of key importance to Scotland will have two options for fulfilling economic link requirements. These are to land a minimum set percentage into Scotland (with the percentage required being dependent on the species landed), or to give back fishing opportunities for the Scottish Government to allocate to others in the Scottish fleet.
This comes as the latest fisheries statistics show Scotland’s sea fish and shellfish industry recovered in 2021 from the COVID-19 pandemic, but had not yet returned to pre-Brexit levels.
‘With increasing competition and pressure on our seas and coasts, it is important to recognise the value that our world-renowned seafood sector brings to the Scottish economy. In 2021, fish and seafood exports were valued at £1 billion, which is 60% of total Scottish food exports,’ Mairi Gougeon in a speech to the shellfish industry at its annual conference.
‘Today’s publication of the Strategy for Seafood marks our commitment to the sector, which employs almost 15,000 people across the country – primarily in our coastal and island communities. In addition, changes we are taking forward will require Scottish fishing vessels to land more of their catch in Scotland, supporting the wider supply chain and, in particular, our domestic fish processing sector.’
She commented that each year Scottish vessels land around £100 million worth of fish outside of Scotland, often for species for which we have ready processing capacity, and described these changes as an important step in ensuring the people of Scotland benefit first and foremost from our fantastic natural assets and resources.
‘Seafood Scotland supports the publication of this strategy which brings together a number of programmes and activities and sets out clear action areas in terms of innovative and sustainable practices that will enable our seafood industry to compete globally and contribute towards the circular economy,’ said Seafood Scotland CEO Donna Fordyce.
‘There are of course obstacles to overcome, but we now have a deeper appreciation of the priorities for our industry and Seafood Scotland’s contribution to Scotland’s future prosperity, particularly our coastal communities. We particularly welcome the focus on the importance of sourcing Scottish data from UK wide figures as it will help us better understand trade flows – and barriers – across the UK and overseas, and ensure we are better placed to target our efforts where they are most effective.’
According to Jimmy Buchan, chief executive of the Scottish Seafood Association, the Scottish Government has clearly listened carefully to the Scottish seafood industry in developing its strategy.
‘The Strategy for Seafood is a cohesive document which reflects the key concerns and priorities of the industry,’ he said.
‘The economic link changes are a good way to protect businesses and jobs in Scotland and we look forward to working with the Scottish Government to achieve long-term growth for the seafood sector.’