14. Conclusions and Recommendations
14.1 The fishing industry in Scotland might currently be characterised as subject to extreme turbulence as it is buffeted by one crisis after another in its bid for survival. Many who have spent their lives in the industry look back over, say, the last 30 years with a longing for a day when regulation was much less, when the fleet was more numerous, when catches were larger and when profitability was greater. But just as in other aspects of life, the clock cannot be turned back. Too many factors have changed, including the very technology which, through increases in the power of vessels and gear and sophisticated electronics, has made fishing a mercifully less arduous calling than was formerly the case. The concept of fisheries management has become closely associated with detailed regulation. There can be no one who seriously believes that all regulation can be eliminated - but most believe that a very much better system than currently applies can and must be put in place.
14.2 The Panel has clear views on the need for urgent reform of the CFP and these were set out in our interim report. With that purpose in mind the Panel now exhorts the Scottish Government - in recognition of Scotland's role as the pre-eminent fishing nation in the UK - to take the lead in establishing a pathfinder initiative with member states to trial a devolved management model. We believe that this management model for the North Sea will deliver rules and regulations in relation to such matters as catch limits, days at sea and discards etc. which are more appropriate and workable and, importantly, understood and respected as matters deserving of compliance.
14.3 But we do not point only to reform of the CFP since the same rationale can and must be applied with equal vigour to regulation within Scotland and within the UK as member state. The Panel believes that the overarching principle needs to be an understanding and expectation that 'government' - whether European, regional, member state or Scottish, sets out clear objectives to be achieved over a specified period, having considered a range of views from marine stakeholders including, of course, the fishing industry. The industry, in turn, needs to take ownership of the management process so that the resulting rules and regulations to achieve these objectives are workable, understandable, sensible and acknowledged as likely to attain the objectives given that the fundamental mission is unassailable, i.e. a profitable fishing industry producing high quality food in a long term sustainable way.
14.4 This approach to management will require the industry to see itself in a very different role - as a leader in the marine environment generally and not as the victim of a crisis. This new approach is also one that the industry needs to take in relation to other stakeholders, many of them new, who have an interest in the wider marine environment. But this vital change in the role of industry requires a corresponding and fundamental shift in the position of government such that some long held positions on how fisheries should be managed and who is responsible for what can be rethought and new solutions embedded. This point is crucial if progress is really going to be made.
14.5 If industry turns its back on the opportunity to change things or if government were to deny industry that opportunity then each must live with the consequences. These consequences include an industry always on the edge, young people turning away from fishing as an employment of choice, declining levels of activity and standards of living, and a government struggling to honour its commitments to the industry and to fishing communities and always being blamed for the state of the fishing industry.
14.6 The Panel is looking to see a new working relationship with the minimum of government intervention and the least possible centrally designed regulation. We consider that detailed rules in relation to gears, closed areas, discards etc. should form part of regional/local long term management plans developed by the industry with the government acting largely as facilitator.
14.7 We do not underestimate the culture change which is required. We are keenly aware of the adverse institutional inertia which characterises most organisations and which creates serious barriers to change. Such barriers will be found equally in science, industry and government establishments. It is important that we understand what these barriers are, how they are created and maintained and how they might be dismantled and the energy and knowledge directed to find a new and constructive way forward.
14.8 Given that sustainability of fish stocks has to be centre stage in any discussions, the Panel has not shied away from difficult recommendations. Our analysis identifies those fish stocks which are in a fragile condition and we recommend that a low F strategy is necessary not just for stock conservation but also for long term viability of certain sectors of the industry. We understand that this will be controversial as it is likely to translate to reduced fishing opportunity for some species, but we consider that those with a real long term stake in the industry will understand and support the rationale. It is important that these proposals are considered with an open mind and not rejected out of hand on the basis of prejudice or preconceived ideas. All stakeholders need to accept the severity of the position for certain species and ensure that they do not react through stereotypical roles and responses.
14.9 We believe that this is an appropriate time to make the far reaching changes in culture and approach which is required since all the major stakeholders consider that the current system is damaged beyond repair. There will still be tough decisions to be made, but they will be made close to home by people who understand the industry and the environment - both physical and cultural - within which it operates.
14.10 We commend this approach which builds on existing good practice in the industry and in Scottish Government but the scale and pace of change has to exceed anything previously undertaken if the opportunity is to be grasped and the future secured.
In this report the Panel would:
( Chapter 6)
1. Urge the Scottish Government to argue strongly for institutional reform of the Common Fisheries Policy above, with a particular emphasis on regionalising the policy.
2. Seek to persuade the Scottish Government, in anticipation of the final decisions over reform and with the collaboration of other member states and stakeholders, to seize the initiative in setting up a pathfinder organisation for regional management and establishing procedures for developing long term management plans.
3. Recommend that the Scottish Government and the fishing industry considers further how the principle of relative stability might be defined in ways that do not inhibit effective reform of fisheries management nor imperil the future of Scotland's fishing industry.
4. Counsel caution over proposals for an EU wide, market led system of rights based management and for the substitution of catch quotas by effort allocation as the basis of management until the potential impacts on Scottish fisheries are more clearly understood.
( Chapter 8)
5. Recommend that the Scottish fishing industry develop a strong rationale for its position as a contributor to the future of Scotland's marine environment; the success of fishing within an integrated management system will depend upon how well it can compete in terms of its contribution with other uses of marine resources and space.
6. Recommend that the Scottish fishing industry move rapidly to embrace the same procedures used to measure environmental, social and economic valuation of its activities, such as Strategic Environmental Assessment, Environmental Impact Assessment and unbiased data collection procedures, used for the relative assessment of the value of various activities within an integrated management system.
7. Recommend that the Scottish fishing industry establish a strategic plan or a strategic planning process that will allow adaptation to integrated management in a manner that sustains its economic viability.
( Chapter 9)
8. Recommend a stepwise, planned approach to adjusting the fishing capacity downwards to achieve considerably lower levels of fishing mortality than is the current norm.
- As a first step this should involve a rapid progression towards the Target F as estimated by ICES , probably within the next few years.
- As a second step there should be a review of whether lowering F further is likely to result in increasing fish biomass, potentially producing increasing fishing opportunities, and allow fisheries to play their part in developing a robust approach to the management of marine biodiversity and the marine ecosystem as a whole.
( Chapter 10)
9. Urge the Scottish Government to remain extremely cautious but open minded about the possibility of embracing effort management at some time in the future when the details of how such a system would operate become fully known.
10. Recommend that the Scottish Government and stakeholder groups puts pressure on the European Commission, Council of Ministers and European Parliament to pursue a strategy on discards as outlined in paragraph 10.32 above as a matter for immediate action.
( Chapter 11)
11. Recommend that the Scottish Government should pursue its efforts to secure a separate quota allocation as a prerequisite to introducing necessary reforms to the quota system, rights based management and organisational structures.
12. Recommend that the Scottish Government and the fishing industry should jointly consider amending the status and operation of the de facto system of ITQ s so as to strengthen its role in assisting structural rationalisation and improving the economic performance of the demersal sector.
13. Recommend that the Scottish Government, together with the PO s and other organisations involved in the seafood chain, should give urgent consideration to reforming the existing structure and functional prioritisation of PO s to ensure they play a more effective role in the economic management of the industry.
14. Recommend that the Scottish Government should embrace the concept of objectives led management and provide strong encouragement to the industry to play a stronger role in the detailed management of the fisheries sector.
15. Urge the Scottish Government to reconsider its position in relation to the introduction of shellfish permits to restrict access to the fisheries and the imposition of limits on the total number of creels attached to each shellfish permit.
( Chapter 12)
16. 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.
17. 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.
18. Recommend that the Scottish Government makes full and effective use of economic and social impact analyses in respect of all policy decisions relating to fisheries.
19. Prevail on the Scottish Government to commission research on fisheries dependence and the data needs for describing and analysing Fisheries Dependent Areas, with a view to creating and maintaining a comprehensive national data base.
20. Recommend that the Scottish Government embarks on developing a national strategy for Fisheries Dependent Areas and encourages local and regional authorities, along with local fishing interests, to formulate regional action plans for the local fishing related economy.
21. 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.
( Chapter 13)
22. Recommend that the Scottish Government and stakeholders takes forward the process of reform as indicated in the broad conclusions of this report by establishing a small working group with the remit of developing a strategic plan. A key task of such a group would be to prioritise the actions and recommendations of this report looking at resource implications.
23. Urge the Scottish fishing industry to treat the implications of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 and in particular the concept of marine spatial planning both urgently and seriously.
24. Recommend that the Scottish Government and industry consider how the growing importance of a regional dimension to marine/fishing policy might best be reflected in the structure of Scottish fisheries governance.