The Scottish Seafood Association (SSA) is calling for support from all levels of government to help secure and grow Scotland’s position as a global seafood centre of excellence.
The association is the national representative body of Scotland’s seafood processing sector. Around half of the UK’s 12000 processing jobs are based in Scotland, the majority in the North-east, but there are concerns that challenges facing the industry are stifling its ability to grow to support the Scottish Government’s ambitious goals for a £30billion Food & Drink sector by 2030.
“Thanks to good fisheries management in recent years, fishing stocks in Scottish waters are growing year on year and catch allowances for cod, haddock and prawns look to be increased for 2018,” said Jimmy Buchan, SSA Business Manager.
“Our fishing fleet is seeing renewal with a record number of new vessels being commissioned and the ports of Peterhead, Fraserburgh and Lerwick are investing millions in infrastructure improvements to support the fishing industry.
“This summer, North Sea cod was given Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) accreditation and we anticipate this accreditation to be extended to more species caught in our waters, further widening the range of MSC approved species available from our members.
All of this is good news, but unfortunately the processing sector, which provides the markets for the fish which is caught, may not have the excess capacity to cope with increases that are coming our way if the sector does not grow in tandem with stock and fleet trends.
“Hundreds of Scottish fishermen rely on the viability of our processing sector to help sustain the catching sector yet statistics show the processing sector is in decline. The fishing industry – catching and processing - is the lifeblood of many North-east communities and securing support to ensure future job security and employment prospects is vital for these local economies,” said Mr Buchan.
“The Scottish Government’s ambition is for more fish to be landed in Scottish ports which SSA supports, however our concern is that if we do not prepare and create the conditions for growth, more Scottish-caught fish may be landed abroad or transported and processed elsewhere in the UK which we cannot allow to happen.
“Our processors face a number of challenges. For example business rates in Humber are cheaper than in Aberdeen. To ensure the processing sector remains strong we would like to see incentives which encourage existing businesses to grow and new businesses to locate here creating jobs and economic growth.”
Mr Buchan said the processing sector is looking ahead to future opportunities and recognises it has a role to play in promoting the reputation of Scottish seafood as being among the best in the world.
“We are competing in a global market and the SSA is committed to ensuring that we confirm our position as a world leader through continuing to look for ways to improve our industry. Last year, the SSA achieved a world first when it became the first association of its kind to achieve group certification through the MSC Chain of Custody programme which guarantees that seafood processed comes from sustainable sources. We are now working closely with members to support them through the accreditation process, and more and more of our are members signing up to the scheme.
“Other programmes being developed include enhanced training opportunities for our members and their employees and a new health awareness scheme being developed in association with the NHS specifically for the processing sector.
“The association is now actively looking for ways to work closer with government and our associates in the fishing industry to achieve our common goal for a strong and sustainable Scottish fish processing sector.”