New legislation is needed now
In order to improve the performance and resilience of the industry so that it can sustainably develop, it is vital that Scotland’s existing inshore fishery legislation is replaced. In particular, new legislation must enable the introduction of modern fisheries management measures and improvements to governance structures.
These changes lie fully within the powers of the Scottish Parliament.
Importance of inshore fisheries
Our fishing industry is largely comprised of small, coastal shellfisheries. But Scottish fisheries policy has tended to overlook these facts, and focus on the minority of vessels that target finfish offshore.
As a consequence, inshore fisheries legislation has not been adequately revised in recent years, and the fishery fails to fulfil its socio-economic potential or meet best international standards for environmental performance.
Existing Scottish inshore fishery legislation is outdated, comprised of a patchwork of Acts that date back over half a century.
The Scottish Government announced it would develop a new Inshore Fisheries Bill in its 2016 Programme for Government. But little progress has been made. It is vital that a new Bill is introduced as a matter of urgency if the inshore fishery is to develop sustainably.
New governance arrangements
New legislation must address the shortcomings of current governance arrangements. Scotland’s existing Regional Inshore Fisheries Groups (RIFGs) were established to improve management of inshore fisheries by helping the fishing industry to provide advice to government. But the RIFGs are un-constituted and voluntary. So they have no formal rules governing decision-making. As a result, the views of certain fishery sectors, particularly creelers and fishermen who are not members of larger fishing associations, are poorly represented.
So the RIFGs, as they are currently established, form a barrier to transparent or balanced fishery management. This undermines the inshore fishery’s potential. In order to address this issue it is vital that legislation is enacted which will require the RIFGs to adopt formal constitutions which mandate transparent and fair decision making processes.
Enforcing Fisheries Law
It is widely accepted that fisheries management requires both the adoption of appropriate conservation and management measures and their effective enforcement in practice. Visible and targeted enforcement provides a clear incentive for those involved in the fishing industry to comply with the applicable regulations, as well as offering a means for enforcement authorities to demonstrate stewardship over fish stocks and associated ecosystems as public goods.
It is acknowledged that less dissuasive sanctions and greater levels of reoffending occurs in Scotland compared to other European countries and as such, SIFT considers that urgent action on this front is needed. Consequently, SIFT has commissioned a report on this issue which can be viewed in the resources section of this page. A summary briefing note is also available.
SIFT regularly produces a briefing note ahead of Scottish Government’s annual participation in the Coastal State Fisheries Negotiations. Our latest briefing for the 2023 negotiations is available here SIFT Briefing Note – 2023 Scottish Parliament Coastal State Ministerial Statement