A £12 million “action plan” to help the beleaguered Scottish fishing industry, including modernisation, has been announced by fisheries minister Richard Lochhead.
He said the “four-pillar” scheme would help to steer the industry through short term and long term challenges, many of which he blamed on “ill-fitting restrictions” from the European Union and the recession.
The plan is intended to improve the wider international framework for fisheries management; manage Scotland’s own fishing quota and effort allocations; work with industry to maximise catch value; and make sure Scotland has a resilient fleet, crewed by a skilled workforce.
However, Mr Lochhead’s plan was immediately criticised by Shetland MSP Tavish Scott, who described it as “four pillars of rhetoric”.
Mr Scott said: “Shetland fishermen face really serious financial pressures now. The first thing Mr Lochhead needs to do is to recognise the reality, now. No one could possibly disagree with his four pillars announced this week, but it’s concrete action to help fishermen that we need, not more well written rhetoric.”
He added that the minister should have changed the cod recovery plan by extending it to reduce the massive cuts being imposed on whitefish boats; accept that the conservation credits system is not working, particularly for boats such as those in Shetland which have a mixed fishery; agree that the government is just as bad as Brussels at imposing a “one size fits all” fisheries policy; and ensure that an increase in days at sea is secured at the December fisheries council in recognition of improved stocks.
“That would be a real plan of action for our boats, and one that would have the industry supporting the fisheries minister. I will be pressing for the Scottish government to accept the reality of the pressures our boats face and act in their interests. That’s what needs to happen and quickly.”
Mr Lochhead said: “The innovative measures we are taking in Scotland to help the fleet cut costs and to protect stocks will also be backed up with steps to maximise the value of the catch. Most importantly the current review of European fisheries policy provides the opportunity to put the current CFP behind us and put in place measures more suited to Scottish circumstances.
“The industry and other stakeholders have played an important part in developing the plan and will have a vital role in ensuring its successful implementation. The fact that we have continued to innovate, even within the context of the broken CFP, has brought Scotland the respect of other countries who look to Scotland for fresh ideas. While meeting conservation targets is vital, it is equally important to re-assure our coastal communities that fishing can continue to be a viable industry for years to come.”