7 June 2012
Speaking in today’s debate on the Common Fisheries Policy, the Scottish Greens have argued that Scotland’s seas risk irreversible decline without bolder action to reform fishery management and discards policy.
In a recent independent report to the Scottish Government, only 4 of the 12 Scottish fish stocks assessed are without immediate concern, and between 2003 and 2011 quotas set by the European Council were on average 47% higher than that advocated by scientists. *
The Greens back proposals for greater regionalisation of fisheries management, and are calling for Scotland to lead in Europe with excellent co-management by fishermen, scientists and conservation interests. However, the Greens warn that industrial-scale ships are doing little for fishing jobs and that there is a culture of disrespect for the scientific advice needed to revive stocks.
In response to a parliamentary question by Alison Johnstone MSP, figures have been published showing that while the number of boats in the Scottish pelagic fleet has fallen dramatically over the last twenty years, the tonnage and engine capacity of the fleet has more that doubled.**
On discards, the Greens want to see a wider ban on the discarding of all sea life that is netted through fishing, to increase transparency and awareness of the number of seabirds, marine mammals and non-commercial fish killed.
Green MSP Alison Johnstone said:
“We have to make science the basis of our decisions on fishery management and resist the current race to the bottom that will leave us with silent seas and silent harbours. The move to a sustainable fishery requires a transition that for a few years will be difficult, but in the medium term will reap us huge benefits and provide more jobs.
“Decentralisation proposals have merit where fishermen, scientists and conservation interests are better involved at a regional level, but sustainability won’t happen magically upon regionalisation. The fishing industry does not have a history of stewardship or compliance and there has been infighting between sectors and incredible levels of black-fish landings.
“Fishing rights should not be based on those who fished most in the past but given to those who can fish the most sustainably today. Industrial fisheries, and their loud lobby, are wrecking our fisheries. While the number of fishing boats has halved over 20 years, the fleet tonnage has more than doubled and we now have mammoth industrial ships that do little to support fishing jobs.
“The Scottish Government’s commitment to tackling discards is good but we should be supporting a wider ban on discards, including seabirds, marine mammals, juveniles and non-commercial species. We must confront the damage that is being done to marine life and I believe we will find solutions more rapidly if we have greater transparency.”
* Figure from European Commission in SPICe briefing pg. 10
** In 1991 there were 54 boats whose main fishing method was Pelagic, today there are 24 – that is a decline of 56% over the past 20 years. Across the same 20 years, the fleet’s total tonnage has more than doubled. http://bit.ly/Ki4Ihw