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Scottish Government fisheries discussion paper: a basis for cautious optimism?

This morning Scottish Ministers set out options for the future of all Scotland’s fisheries in their Scottish Sea Fisheries National Discussion Paper, which will form the basis for an open consultation through to 7th June 2019.

Progress towards new legislation?

SIFT has long argued that the legislation governing our inshore fisheries in particular is out of date, in some cases dating back 50 years. So we are pleased to see this commitment:

“The Scottish Government intends to build on the 2015 Inshore Fisheries Strategy and incorporate it into a wider fisheries strategy for Scotland, including legislating to create an appropriate statutory underpinning for future inshore fisheries management.”

We are also pleased in particular to see Ministers’ intention to put the Regional Inshore Fisheries Groups onto a statutory basis, set out on page 6, and, on the same page, discussion of the need for more local control over managing inshore fisheries.

Similarly, the discussion on page 35 around spatial restrictions may well lead in a positive direction. The Scottish Government remains sceptical about measures such as the reinstatement of the three mile limit, backed by the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation, but are increasingly supportive about more limited gear separation measures:

“The Scottish Government believes there is merit in introducing a significant low-impact trial that will separate mobile activity from static gear and recreational users and in doing so we will further consider the merits of specific zones where mobile gear bottom contact fishing will not be permitted.”

Overall, we see this paper as a welcome change of direction, especially on the need for better science, stronger local control over our inshore waters, and the prospect of creel-only areas where appropriate. In particular, a significant trial of low impact-only fishing zones would be the right way to build on the current proposals for a smaller pilot of this sort in the Inner Sound. Measures of this sort could simultaneously unlock economic and environmental benefits for Scotland’s coastal communities.

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