Scottish fishermen urge collaboration with government amidst environmental concerns

Fishermen seek sustainable solutions as they welcome increased quotas, emphasising industry commitment to healthy stocks and environmental responsibility in 2024.

Scottish Fishermen urge Government collaboration for environmental sustainability, reflecting on 2023’s Highly Protected Marine Areas issue, urging change in 2024.

IN A bid to avoid a repeat of the Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) controversy in 2023, the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation emphasises the need for the Scottish Government to collaborate with the fishing industry. Reflecting on a year marked by successful opposition to plans to ban fishing in 10% of Scotland’s seas, industry leaders urge ministers to adopt a more comprehensive approach to environmental challenges. Elspeth Macdonald, CEO of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, urges a shift in mindset, highlighting that fisheries, while impacting the marine environment, have a lower carbon footprint than most forms of food production. 

“As we are reminded in headlines from around the world every day, we need to tackle the climate crisis and biodiversity loss,” says Macdonald. Macdonald emphasises the complexity of the issues and calls for a recognition that fisheries are just one part of intricate systems. Macdonald stresses the importance of sustainable, well-managed fisheries as part of the solution to global challenges. Looking ahead to 2024, she urges ministers to resist oversimplified views from environmental NGOs and advocates for evidence-based measures. Macdonald points out the success of collaborative models in the past, particularly in the Marine Protected Areas network, and encourages a similar approach in addressing complex issues.

The CEO notes that the government’s commitment is evident in annual quota negotiations, highlighting the significance of the 2024 settlement for fishing businesses and coastal communities. Macdonald acknowledges the complexity of climate change and biodiversity loss issues, urging collaboration and reasoned discussions rather than conflict and rhetoric in the coming year.

In a separate statement on international fisheries agreements for 2024, Scottish fishermen express broad satisfaction with increased quotas set under trilateral and bilateral agreements between the UK, EU, and Norway. Key commercial stocks like cod, haddock, whiting, plaice, saithe, and herring see raised quotas. Cod quotas, in particular, receive a 15% increase based on updated science, reflecting healthy stock volumes in Scottish waters.

Despite differences with the Scottish Government over the HPMA policy, the SFF commends the work of Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Mairi Gougeon and her team, along with colleagues in the UK Government, for securing favourable deals for fishermen in 2024. SFF Chief Executive Elspeth Macdonald credits the outcomes to science, emphasising that most key commercial fish stocks are in good health. She dismisses organisations discrediting Scotland’s fishing industry and asserts that the announced quotas demonstrate the industry’s commitment to sustainability and good management practices.

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