Plans to ensure Scotland maximises the potential of its fisheries and seafood sectors were unveiled at the Scottish Skipper Expo in Aberdeen last week by Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead.
A refreshed stakeholder engagement plan, covering both fisheries management and seafood supply and marketing, will ensure that all those involved in the fishing industry work together to achieve the best results.
By adopting a more strategic two-pronged approach, Mr Lochhead said the government could improve engagement with stakeholders and ensure everyone worked towards a common goal. It is this common approach, he said, that will undoubtedly deliver best results.
Two new overarching bodies will be created to take this work forward:
q The Fisheries Management and Conservation Group will build on the success of the Conservation Credits Steering Group and cover all aspects of inshore and offshore sea fisheries
q The Scottish Seafood Partnership will replace the existing Scottish Fisheries Council and will be made up of the key players from processors, retailers and Producer Organisations seeking to maximise continuity of supply opportunities to add value from net to plate for all seafood products.
Speaking at the Scottish Skipper Expo, his first public engagement as Fisheries Secretary since his reappointment, Mr Lochhead said: “As a nation we land the best seafood in the world and the fishing industry provides vital employment throughout Scotland.
“The Scottish Government is committed to working in partnership with the industry to safeguard the rich stocks in our seas and to ensure our fishermen maximise the commercial value of the premium products they produce - that two pronged approach can bring prosperity to our fishing communities. We are establishing the means by which we can engage with the industry to take forward our shared objectives.
“However, we also need to radically overhaul how and where many of the decisions are taken that impact on our fishing industry.
“We have long argued that fishermen have to be at the heart of the decision making and that’s why the forthcoming negotiations on the Common Fisheries Policy are vital.
“It’s also why we need to return as much of the decision making as possible to Scotland. Our own industry is well placed to help manage our fisheries and deliver the complex solutions required for Scotland’s seas.
“The forthcoming reform of EU fishing policy must remove decision making from the dead hand of Brussels and help us tackle issues such as the scandal of discards.
“We also need to do a lot more to maximise the value of our landings and ensure the quality of the seafood sustainably harvested from our pristine waters commands recognition in the marketplace.
“Scottish seafood should benefit from a Scottish premium in the same way as other Scottish produce already does. If we can achieve that, the bottom line of every fishing business will receive a boost.”