The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation has claimed that 2015 heralds a ‘wide range of challenges’ for the Scottish fishing industry.
And the fisheries group says it is vital that the industry does not become strangled by increasing regulation and dysfunctional legislation.
Key issues ahead for the industry include the appraisal of how the landing obligation is working for the pelagic sector and setting the ground rules for the implementation in 2016 for the demersal fleet.
The management and designation of Marine Protected Areas, and the need to ensure sensible quota management that reflects actual stock status will also be high on the agenda.
Just days after the implementation of the discard ban, SFF chief executive, Bertie Armstrong, said the industry would be watching closely to ensure that there was a level playing field for its control and monitoring across the EU member states and third party nations.
“There is also the real and very difficult challenge for its introduction in the demersal sector,” said Mr Armstrong.
“A huge amount of work still needs to be done over the coming months to ensure that a practicable regime is developed that ensures the viability and profitability of the fleet.
“It must be remembered that we are entering uncharted territory here and it is essential that there is a large degree of latitude and flexibility in its implementation. It would be a tragedy if it were implemented in a way that proved devastating to our fleet at the very time when fish stocks are increasing.”
Mr Armstrong said the volume of landings had remained relatively static for the last few years, yet the abundance of fish in the sea over that period has increased dramatically so. At the same time, Scottish fishing fleets had become strangled by “increasing regulation, bureaucracy and dysfunctional legislation”.
He added: “There is also the need for a common sense approach to the management of Marine Protected Areas that achieves the twin aims of marine conservation and sustainable fishing.
“Fishermen are fully supportive of protecting vulnerable areas but the decision-making must be made on an evidential basis. With regards to marine spatial planning, it is essential that the Scottish fishing industry, with a history stretching back to the origins of the nation itself, is treated fairly as an established user of the sea space when new developments are considered.
“Our sustainable contribution to food security and support of coastal communities depends upon even-handed decision-making.”
He said that another key area of the SFF’s work over the coming year would be the development of the support of the industry in providing even more input into the fish stock assessment process.
“Such information collated by fishermen is used by scientists to help provide a clearer and more accurate picture of the status of our stocks, which in turn helps develop informed advice for future catching opportunity,” he said.