Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead
Fisheries Negotiations Debate
November 27, 2008
I welcome this opportunity to debate this year's fisheries negotiations.
They are vitally important to our fishing communities, our economy, food policy and marine environment. Today we will debate TACs and quotas - but we are also debating a way of life and valuable part of our heritage.
And this debate is not just about the vessels and crews that go to sea - it also about the thousands of Scots who work onshore in our processing factories and on the quayside.
People throughout Scotland know the risks that our fishermen take to put healthy food on their table. And we should all reflect that once again this year some, have tragically, made the ultimate sacrifice. Members will also wish to pay tribute to Stornoway Coastguard and the wider service following the rescue this morning of the crew from Banff registered Enterprise 2 that got into difficulties.
Presiding Officer, Scotland's people look to their Government to fight hard for our fishermen. And the fishing industry can rely on the Scottish Government to relentlessly represent the industry's interests.
The negotiations come at the end of a year that has brought positive developments and challenges in equal measure.
2008 started on a high when we secured a historic deal in the European negotiations. The deal brought back to Scotland a degree of fisheries management enabling us to pioneer our own days at sea regime.
The Scottish Conservation Credits Scheme has allowed fishermen to benefit from additional days that recognise the steps they take to conserve stocks.
We have designed a regime that provides rewards and incentives for responsible behaviour and moves away the previous emphasis on penalties and disincentives.
The fleets have benefited because they have adopted cod-avoidance actions including avoiding closed areas and using more selective fishing gear.
The unprecedented joint working between Government, industry, scientists and environmental community was a key feature of our approach to the 2008 negotiations and has continued throughout the year.
Most importantly, the Scottish sector has shown leadership in Europe by rising to the challenge of ensuring sustainable cod fisheries - leading the debate and offering solutions. And it has ensured that its own house is in order with over 50% of Scottish fisheries now under full assessment for Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification as being fished sustainably.
Our industry's leadership in fisheries conservation is now recognised beyond Scotland and here at home by retailers and consumers seeking the stamp of sustainability on Scottish seafood.
This commitment to sustainability has also underpinned the approach we have taken to ensuring the good management of our seas. In March, this Parliament supported our bid for additional responsibilities in the waters around Scotland to ensure better integration and a coherent framework for planning and nature conservation.
I am pleased to announce today that following the First Minister's initiative in reactivating the Joint Ministerial Council machinery, we have now reached agreement with the UK Government and the devolved administrations.
This will result in additional executive devolution of marine planning and nature conservation responsibilities to Scottish ministers. It will also provide for a framework for joined up marine planning within the UK, while respecting different constitutional responsibilities. It will support the Scottish economy by enabling us to manage marine resources coherently.
This is good news for our fishermen, our other marine industries and our precious marine environment.
Scotland will take the lead for nature conservation and marine planning out to 200 miles and I know the Chamber will welcome today's step forward for Scotland's Parliament.
Throughout this year's fisheries negotiations, I am acutely aware of the fragile economic situation of the Scottish fleet, which will not be immune from recession. These difficulties come on top of a roller coaster year with soaring fuel prices and now falling prices for seafood.
I am under no illusions about the need to work creatively and energetically with the sector to secure a thriving future. Over the summer the Government worked with the industry on a response to soaring fuel prices. With our limited budgets we did what we could to back up industry ideas with money.
We ear-marked nearly £29 million that includes £19 million from the European Fisheries Fund to respond to industry projects that boost fuel efficiency and make boats more profitable.
We introduced a range of measures to help offset the cost of fuel.
We want to take a more strategic approach to EFF funding, looking for quick expenditure with strategic impact. We are therefore accelerating the allocation of EFF expenditure with priority given to projects which can start quickly and guarantee spend by 31 March 2009 to deliver immediate benefits.
My challenge to the industry is to bring forward important projects that will have the highest and most immediate impact on industry's needs.
And our joint aim must be to ensure sea fishing is an increasingly successful part of Scotland's food and drink industry. Because - as skippers well know - adding value is not just about landing more fish. It's about finding and keeping new markets, and impressing upon consumers across the world that our nation's product is healthy and of outstanding quality.
Negotiations so far
My overall objective for the negotiations will be to secure outcomes which promote sustainable fisheries and which are fair and just for the Scottish fishing sector.
And I shall wherever possible look for solutions which increase the choices for fishermen reward sustainable behaviour; encourage long term planning; and bring decisions under national control
Several stages of the talks are already complete.
In October we secured a 33% increase in the mackerel quota. Last week in Brussels, we embedded Scotland's trailblazing Conservation Credits Scheme in the new Cod Recovery Plan - securing the long term sustainability of cod stocks through cod avoidance measures made in Scotland rather than by blunt cuts in fishing effort.
Negotiations to come
There is still much to play for and some difficult challenges.
In this week's EU-Norway negotiations, the Government is resisting any attempt to swap away our valuable mackerel quota. And I shall pursue vigorously the issue of discards of cod.
Throughout the year, we have been very active in generating solutions to radically reduce discarding.
I hosted a Discards Summit to discuss the problem and generate ideas. There was complete consensus amongst skippers, industry representatives, environmentalists and policy makers, that this wasteful practice can't go on and must be tackled now.
There is no benefit to the stock, to fishermen or to our fishing communities when fishermen have to dump good quality marketable fish dead into the sea.
I have raised this with my EU counterparts and met with the Norwegian Government in October. Other nations agree with us.
This year we have a golden opportunity to address the issue of discards.
"Land more and catch less" - that must be our guiding principle. We need to focus on what we remove from the sea rather than what is landed ashore.
A key part of that package must be a significant increase in the North Sea cod quota at this week's EU-Norway talks. We can "catch less" by reducing the amount of cod taken from the sea. But "land more" of what we do catch, rather than force the fleet to dump it overboard.Fisheries management in a mixed fishery is complex. But we must allow the fleet to catch sustainable stocks, while at the same time safeguarding more fragile stocks and avoiding discards.
The December Council negotiations are likely to be as difficult as ever.
A number of key issues still need to be resolved including:
- securing a rollover on the important nephrops quotas
- gaining a responsible increase in monkfish and megrim quotas; and above all
- overturning the Commission's wholly disproportionate and draconian proposal to close demersal fisheries on the West Coast
Presiding officer, the science for whitefish stocks on the west coast is difficult. We do need to develop sensible solutions to this challenge. But the Commission's original proposal would devastate fishing communities from Campbeltown to Kinlochbervie.
It is being vigorously resisted and we will present alternative solutions.
Along with the industry, we are working on better technical and spatial measures. I am confident we can put in place a package that will ensure sustainable fisheries on the west coast without the need for the drastic and ruinous steps that the Commission has promoted.
I met with Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg last week to express Scotland's fury over the Commission's proposals - and to make what I consider to be a good case for alternative Scottish solutions. The Commission has agreed to look at our proposals.
Approach to the talks
In pursuing these objectives I shall aim to build on the success of the approach we have adopted over the past year. That means:
- Standing up vigorously for Scottish interests
- Being prepared to take the lead on the international stage
- Working in close collaboration with the sector as Team Scotland
I shall also make it a priority to think not only of the needs of today's fishermen but also of those to come.
That's why we've developed this year's proposals to safeguard fishing rights for future generations of Scottish fishermen.That's why we've been prepared to put on the table the inadequacies of the Common Fisheries Policy itself. We look forward to the European Commission's Green Paper on the Future of the CFP - we are seeking the EU's agreement that they will to debate with us the case for having a Common Fisheries Policy in the first place. I am confident that they will accept the need for that debate and that will allow Scotland to present the case for returning responsibility for fishing to this Parliament. Where it belongs.
The CFP is discredited. It is this elected Parliament that should manage our fishing grounds not 27 countries, including many that are landlocked, sitting round a table in Brussels.
I believe that what we have achieved this year is the start of something better. We have laid important foundations for a sustainable future.
We have prioritised communities, working with people across Scotland to put the needs of our vulnerable fishing communities at the heart of our agenda.
We - Government, industries and communities - are pledged to protect access to our precious fishing resources and the communities that depend upon them.
I urge Parliament to support our motion and support a sustainable future for our fisheries and our fishing communities.