The fishing industry has a wonderful opportunity in the post-Brexit landscape with catching opportunities worth hundreds of millions of pounds at stake if the UK should regain control of its 200-mile exclusive economic zone, according to Shetland Fishermen’s Association executive officer Simon Collins.
He says the industry has got off to a flying start in making the case for UK fisheries with ministers in both Westminster and Holyrood and has had a very positive reception.
Mr Collins is part of a Scottish Fishermen’s Federation and Scottish Fish Producer Organisation delegation which has been “working extremely hard” on the implications of leaving Europe for the fishing industry. “We will be doing little else for the next few years,” said Mr Collins.
He added: “We have a united Scottish industry behind us. This is all we have been doing since the referendum. We have to keep the pressure on the Scottish and UK governments and so far we have had a positive response.
“We are very focused and throwing a lot of resources at this.”
He said that doors had been open to the industry and ministers were “very keen” to hear what was being said.
According to Mr Collins, under UN law, the allocation of resources within the 200-mile limit is entirely within the jurisdiction of national governments. Once the Common Fisheries Policy ceases to apply to UK waters, this means a huge tonnage of fish can be reallocated to the UK fleet.
He said that industry lawyers were examining the track records established by vessels in the zone prior to its establishment in the 1980s.
But if the UK government wants to take a strong stance in the Brexit negotiations and acknowledge the importance of fishing to Shetland and Scotland then it will repatriate fish stocks.
Mr Collins added: “If the UK government has a will to stand firm and assert its rights to its own waters, there is very little can stop them and therein lies the opportunity.”
• More, including Fishing For Leave’s renewed campaign, in this week’s Shetland Times.