12. Sustainable Coastal Communities
12.1 In Scotland creating the basis for sustainable communities has long been regarded as the essential third pillar of fisheries policy and has attracted broad cross-party support. Around Scotland's coasts there are numerous coastal communities which rely wholly or partly on fishing for their livelihoods. The importance of sustaining those communities featured strongly in 'A Sustainable Framework for Scottish Sea Fisheries (2005)' and more recently in the Scottish Government's response to the CFP Green Paper which expresses the wish for 'fisheries policies which recognise and are sensitive to the needs of our fisheries dependent communities and respect their historic fishing rights …' . It is difficult, however, to find evidence of many actions undertaken by government to underpin the commitment to sustainable communities. In this sense, therefore, sustainable communities are an aspiration rather than a clearly articulated objective. Social objectives, however defined, must complement rather than challenge those set for sustainable fisheries and a profitable fisheries sector as a whole.
12.2 Concern for sustainable coastal communities is as much about economic actions as about social ones, though the consequences of failure are usually measured in terms of social disadvantage. There are two complementary aspects to the economic challenge. The first is the ability to retain employment in the local fisheries sector which in many instances represents the only enduring, long term, sustainable resource base for the community - through guaranteeing its competitiveness. This issue has been largely dealt with in the previous chapter. The other aspect concerns the attraction of new sources of alternative employment to what are often remote rural areas with comparatively high transport costs, low population potentials and narrow labour markets. This task is made more difficult as a result of the current economic climate and the inevitable cuts in public expenditure which even these marginal areas cannot hope to escape.
12.3 Unless there is an unexpectedly rapid rate of recovery for key demersal stocks, notably cod, we have to accept the most likely outcome of fisheries development in Scotland over the next decade to be fewer active fishing vessels, further rationalisation of processing capacity and, therefore lower levels of employment in fishing related activities. In managing any further downsizing of the industry, action may be needed to prevent overconcentration of fishing opportunities both structurally and spatially in order to promote the viability of some of the more vulnerable fisheries dependent areas ( FDA s) and to guarantee the renewal of the fishing industry across Scotland.
12.4 It is unrealistic to assume that all fishing communities around the Scottish coast can be protected from the consequences of rationalisation especially in conditions where fishing opportunities are likely to remain relatively scarce. It is not the task of government to prop up declining communities. Although dependence carries with it a sense of risk, not all FDA s are necessarily vulnerable: communities become vulnerable when their social cohesion is undermined and their cultural identity is challenged, and particularly when direction, leadership and self-determination are missing. The role of government, both national and local, therefore, is to create an environment in which self-determination is possible.
Defining social objectives in fisheries policy
12.5 Social objectives are difficult to define and articulate in relation to fisheries policy. They rely largely on qualitative assessment, informed opinion and a measure of value judgement.
As a result they can rarely be expressed in terms of precise targets. Nonetheless, the Panel has identified three sets of social issues relating to fisheries policy: these are concerned with the individual, the community and the sector.
12.6 In relation to the protection of individual rights , under the influence of modern management the notion of free and equal access to the fishery has been progressively eroded through restricted licensing, quota limits and ultimately systems of rights based management that sequester so-called common property rights and treat fishing rights as private property to be used or traded for profit. This latter development can be seen as discriminating between privileged groups of rights holders and those wishing to enter fishing as an occupation of choice ( UN Human Rights Committee, 2007).
12.7 It is widely acknowledged that the high costs of entry into the fishing industry as a skipper owner (costs of acquiring vessel, licence and quota) and uncertain prospects for commensurate remuneration in what is one of the most 'unsocial', physically challenging and dangerous occupations, act as disincentives to young people looking to build a career in fishing. Even for those seeking regular employment rather than a career in fishing, uncertain employment rights and the absence of job related pension schemes mean that increasing numbers from within fishing communities are unable or unwilling to commit to the uncertainty and insecurity that fishing now entails. Take home pay for both skippers and crew has been falling recently in relative if not absolute terms as a consequence of declining fishing opportunities (quota, days at sea) and the fact that earnings are dependent on fixed shares of net profit from the fishing trip. For many fishing is no longer a preferred occupation. An exception to the share system occurs in respect to non-domiciled, mainly Filipino labour where wage levels are negotiated in advance by their agents.
12.8 The Panel recognises the renewal of social capital in the fishing industry as an important issue and looks forward with interest to the proposals of the New Entrants Working Group for enhancing and sustaining new entrants and, in particular, to detailed recommendations in relation to apprenticeship funding and the building of a more coherent structure for access to more appropriate training opportunities.
12.9 In addressing the issue of 'providing support for strong local fishing communities' it is important to understand what is meant by a community. It is the nexus of social relations between kin, neighbours and those who share the same occupational experiences that defines the social reality of the fishing community. Traditionally, these social relations have underpinned the resilience of small family based enterprises: strategies for survival are worked out through the resources of family and neighbours. Moreover, the fishing community has encapsulated a vital reservoir of knowledge, experience and understanding of local fisheries (and the local ecosystem) - a form of intellectual capital that cannot be replicated in any other form.
12.10 This situation is under attack both from within and outwith the fishing community. The network of social relations is becoming weaker and more dispersed as skippers are forced to look further afield in the recruitment of crew. Loss of basic local services (schools, clinics, retail outlets and public transport) threatens to reduce the material standard of living in many remoter coastal areas.
12.11 In addition to challenges faced by other professionals in increasingly complex regulations, the most insidious threat comes from the erosion of the intrinsic rewards from fishing and the social identity of the skipper owner. The stranglehold imposed by increasingly complex regulatory systems limits his ability to deploy his knowledge, skill and enterprise in bringing home a good catch. The burden of regulation alters the way in which fishermen understand and evaluate their work. They are less able to exercise control over the present and future destiny of their business enterprises. Action is urgently needed on the part of industry and others to rebuild confidence and restore the status of being a fisherman, and thereby underpin the social renewal of the industry.
12.12 The sectoral needs of the small boat sector have been discussed in the preceding chapter. The Panel has noted the Scottish Government's rejection of proposals in the Green Paper for a differentiated approach to the offshore and inshore sectors of the fleet. The Panel endorses the Scottish Government's position, though for somewhat different reasons. It rejects the notion that an arbitrary dividing line based on vessel length can determine the nature of the fishing enterprise and decide whether its fishing activities may be supported through public funding, as the Green Paper implies. It also argues that a differentiated approach assumes what in Scotland is a false dichotomy in terms of the economic motivation and social responsibility of the offshore and inshore sectors. Moreover, there is at present a substantial difference in the level of regulatory oversight between the more heavily regulated offshore fisheries and the more lightly controlled inshore fisheries.
12.13 The historic symbiosis between the small boat fleet and the fishing community - local boats fishing local waters, landing their catches at local ports to be prepared for sale by local processors - has been eroded over time. There is, however, strong evidence to support the contention that Scottish small boat fisheries continue to exert a strong value in servicing local communities through employment and the generation of income. The strengths of the small boat sector have been its flexibility in targeting different species according to availability; the internalisation of certain 'external costs' including maintenance and repairs, bookkeeping etc; low levels of indebtedness; involvement in a pluriactive economy; and the ethos of self-employment. Some of these attributes are being marginalised by modernisation and specialisation. While it is clear that in Shetland sustainability of local fishing communities is due principally to the activity of locally based, large vessels fishing in offshore waters, throughout much of western Scotland and along the east coast from Fife southwards it is the small boat sector that supports the fishing community to a very large degree.
12.14 It is difficult to identify specific courses of action to address the individual, community and sectoral issues outlined above. The Panel would certainly:
- urge the Scottish Government to support actions intended to rebuild confidence and restore the identity and status of fishing as an occupation of choice; this would include moves to reduce the burden of regulation, decriminalise technical infringements of regulations and professionalise the industry through training, qualifications etc; and
- recommend that the Scottish Government and local authorities adopt measures to assist the renewal of social capital in the industry and in fishing dependent communities, through support for community quota schemes, assisted ownership of first vessel etc.
Further solutions to the issue of sustainable coastal communities may be sought through the formulation of integrated programmes for economic development targeted on FDA s (see paras 20-22 below) and management plans for inshore waters (see para 28 et seq. ).
Just as important, however, is the need to ensure that no policy decision will have unforeseen and damaging consequences for the sustainability of coastal communities. For this reason the Panel:
- recommends that the Scottish Government makes full and effective use of economic and social impact analyses in respect of all policy decisions relating to fisheries.
Securing the future for fisheries dependent areas
12.15 In order to secure a sustainable future for Scotland's FDA s, we need to understand their structural characteristics and dynamics much more fully and also appreciate how changes to fisheries policy can impact upon their development. The truth is that at present we have very little information on which to build a clear picture of FDA s. Government is poorly served in terms of basic economic and social data that could help contextualise fisheries dependent communities in their broader geographical setting.
12.16 There are currently three basic weaknesses in defining FDA s: difficulty in convincing a wider public of the significance of fisheries dependence; the availability of relevant descriptive and analytical data; and where such data exist, the geographical incompatibility of the data sets.
12.17 Crude measures of fisheries dependence can be misleading. In Scotland only three out of 38 coastal Travel to Work Areas ( TTWA s) show a level of employment dependence in excess of 10% (Fraserburgh 19.6%, Berwickshire 12.3%, and Uists and Barra 11.1%) and a further seven TTWA s over 5% (see Figure 12.1). The measure of dependence is based on direct employment in fishing, fish processing and aquaculture. It excludes any multiplier to account for other local employment wholly or partly related to fishing activity (repair facilities; gear manufacture; box making; ice plants; transport firms etc .), let alone the proportion of local service sector jobs dependent on revenues generated in the fisheries sector. Nor are there any regular, up to date, comparative data on value added revenues attributable to the local fisheries sector.
12.18 Basic data on direct employment, first hand sales value of landings and the fishing fleet are adequate. What is missing is the array of social data on demographics, housing, education, health and social exclusion that can help to describe the varying economic and social circumstances in which fisheries dependence may occur. Such data exist but often with different spatial formatting. For the purpose of describing and analysing Scotland's FDA s it will be necessary to build up standardised data sets from small area statistics.
12.19 In view of the lack of available intelligence, the Panel
- prevails on the Scottish Government to commission research on fisheries dependence and the data needs for describing and analysing FDA s, with a view to creating and maintaining a comprehensive national data base.
12.20 The objective of such an exercise is threefold. First, it is simply to identify the main fisheries dependent regions ( FDR s) in Scotland. Appendix 6 defines four very differently structured FDR s (North East Mainland; Shetland; West Coast Mainland; and the Outer Isles) by combining port districts according to their fishing characteristics. Other combinations of port districts could be used to configure other regions.
Figure 12.1 Fisheries dependent areas 2007
12.21 Secondly, it is to provide basic information for developing a national strategy for fisheries development in Scotland's FDA s . And, thirdly, it is to enable the national strategy to be translated into regional action plans drawn up by a broad coalition of local authorities and fisheries interests, including catching, processing and aquaculture, PO s, Inshore Fisheries Groups inter alia . Regional action plans should focus on improvements to infrastructure (harbours, markets, processing capacity, transport); marketing linked to local brand ecolabelling; education, research and training provision; measures to stimulate the renewal of social capital; and redefining opportunities for fishing through regional, national and EU sources. It may well be that such initiatives have already been undertaken in certain FDA s, but only in a very few instances - most notably in Shetland - have the efforts resulted in a coherent plan.
12.22 Accordingly the Panel:
- recommends that the Scottish Government embarks on developing a national strategy for FDA s and encourages local and regional authorities, along with local fishing interests, to formulate regional action plans for the local fishing related economy.
12.23 In the past, governments have usually responded to problems experienced in FDA s as a result of contraction in the local fishing industry by endeavouring to soften the impact through attraction of new industry - usually in the form of small and medium enterprises - and a consequent broadening of the local employment base. Rarely have governments made a concerted effort to improve the physical, business and social infrastructure of the local fisheries economy itself. The Panel believes both approaches are necessary and should complement each other in ways that ensure the broader economic strategy does not make it more difficult to retain or rebuild fishing capacity within the FDA s, and vice versa .
12.24 In looking to the future, the Panel envisages a proliferation of local and regional plans that will impact on coastal fisheries and local fishing communities. These include not only those discussed above but also inshore fishing plans (see below) and marine spatial plans. The Scottish Government will need to ensure that, as far as possible, such initiatives use common geographical boundaries, complement rather than overlap each other and any tensions between them are creative rather than dysfunctional.
Laying the foundations for the sustainable development of Scotland's inshore fisheries
12.25 The intricate and fragmented Scottish coastline provides a rich environment of territorial or inshore waters (0-12 nm): in terms of area, Scotland is second only to Norway among European nations. Until quite recently, little attention has been paid to the value of those waters, either from the perspective of their contribution to Scotland's natural heritage or the contribution to the Scottish economy.
12.26 In fact, these waters provide a very valuable resource base for Scotland's fishing industry (Table 12.1) and for communities along the west coast in particular. Inshore waters accounted for a little over one fifth of all landings by Scottish vessels in 2008, valued at £84m. As expected these were dominated by shellfish (98%) with Nephrops , scallops, lobster, brown and velvet crabs occupying the top five places, each with landing values in excess of £4.5 million. The Minch very clearly stands out as Scotland's most important inshore area, accounting for £47 million (or 56%) of inshore landings in 2008.
Table 12.1: Inshore water landings, 2008 by value and percentage total inshore catches
Source: Marine Scotland 2008
12.27 Scotland's lightly regulated inshore fisheries are vulnerable to increased levels of exploitation. The inshore waters are open to practically all vessels holding UK licences applicable across both offshore and inshore waters and valid throughout all UK inshore waters. With reduced opportunities in offshore waters (quota, days at sea) there is an ever present danger of latent fishing capacity being diverted into inshore waters. Marine Scotland has reported an increase in the number of Scottish vessel landings with all or part of their catch taken in inshore waters. The need for a more robust system of inshore management is therefore urgent.
12.28 Inshore waters generally are subject to increasing competition for the use of marine space. In Scotland, remoteness from major urban agglomerations has shielded northern and western waters from intense competition and to a large extent Scotland enjoys the benefit of good environmental quality in most of its coastal waters. In future, it is likely that there will be increasing pressure for marine spatial planning, involving some zonation of uses and the creation of more marine protected areas ( MPA s) where fishing may be banned or at least restricted.
12.29 In developing marine spatial plans for Scotland's inshore waters, it is vital for a balance to be struck between wider societal concern for marine environmental quality and local interest in the gainful exploitation of marine resources whether for commercial fishing, recreational activities or renewable energy. In particular, the value of inshore waters as spawning and nursery grounds for commercial stock or as commercial fishing grounds must be carefully assessed, accurately mapped and, as far as possible, protected from interference by other users.
12.30 Until now inshore fisheries in Scotland have been centrally managed with executive decisions taken by the Scottish Government on advice from the Scottish Inshore Fisheries Advisory Group ( SIFAG ) formed of commercial fishing and, to a lesser extent, nature conservation stakeholders. Management has largely been confined to interventions, under the Inshore Fishing (Scotland) Act , 1984, intended to resolve disputes between static and mobile gear groups mainly through zoning in the disputed areas.
12.31 The Panel welcomes the decision to establish local Inshore Fisheries Groups ( IFG s) to advise on the management needs of inshore fisheries. To date, six IFG s have been set up (Figure 12.2) as non-statutory organisations with membership restricted to commercial fishing interests active within the district. Their remit is to draw up fishing management plans , covering stock management, codes of conduct, marketing initiatives inter alia , and thereafter to assist in their implementation, monitoring and revision. The first of the draft plans (Outer Hebrides) is expected in May 2010 with the remaining five to follow later this year. Executive authority rests with Marine Scotland who will approve the plans in consultation with SIFAG and be responsible for all legislative action.
12.32 IFG s could prove another successful example of co-management between government - both central and local - and the fishing industry. The Panel notes the separation of stakeholder representation between the executive committee, made up solely of commercial fishing interests but with an independent chairperson, and the advisory group comprising other stakeholders, technical and marketing expertise and local authorities. Successful development and implementation of inshore management plans will almost certainly depend on regular, positive dialogue between the executive committee and the advisory group. We are encouraged to note the decision of at least one IFG to invite key non-fishing stakeholders, (including SNH , Marine Scotland Science and Marine Scotland Compliance) to all executive committee meetings.
12.33 IFG s will indeed face a considerable challenge if they are to make a lasting impression on fisheries management. They must avoid the easy option of seeking to protect the status quo . Instead they will have to grapple with the pressures of environmental conservation and develop management plans that demonstrate very clearly how fishing can be sustained within an overall framework designed to ensure the productivity, diversity and integrity of the ecosystem. At the same time IFG s must ensure that integrated management does not inhibit the continuing prosperity of local fisheries based economies.
12.34 The Panel believes that managing inshore waters must in future: i) recognise the interdependence of local social and ecological systems; ii) rebuild the resilience of these interlocking systems; iii) restore flexibility of inshore fishing operations; iv) treat uncertainty, variability and change as endemic and irreversible properties of local ecosystems; and v) develop local fishing systems best able to absorb or buffer natural disturbances in the ecosystems and so adapt to changing circumstances. Economically, the goal of inshore management must be to lay the foundations for viable and sustainable business enterprises.
12.35 The Panel is anxious to ensure that IFG s are given every opportunity to put in place a robust yet balanced and non-discriminatory management system. We believe they should be given powers to implement specific measures to safeguard existing and future fisheries within their districts, subject to approval by Marine Scotland. But for effective management of Scotland's inshore fisheries overall there will need to be frequent networking among neighbouring IFG s. There are also persuasive arguments for giving further consideration to extending the 'jurisdiction' of IFG s to include the 6-12 nm zone.
12.36 There is, however, some lingering concern that IFG s' non-statutory status, narrow remit and truncated management could limit their influence when it comes to wider issues of marine spatial planning. Unless IFG management plans are seen to provide a robust response to the demands for integrated management, they could be upstaged by newly created marine planning partnerships as envisaged in the Marine (Scotland) Act , 2010.
12.37 The Panel places a very high value on Scotland's inshore waters as a key national resource not only for commercial fishing but also for wildlife conservation, recreational facilities, aesthetic enjoyment and, most recently, the generation of renewable energy. As a consequence, we would:
- urge the Scottish Government to ensure (a) that the IFG management plans are sufficiently robust to safeguard inshore fishing interests in the event of marine spatial planning, and (b) that with the active support of the industry the system of IFG s is extended to cover the whole of Scotland's inshore waters with immediate effect.
Figure 12.2 Inshore Fisheries Groups 2010