Fisheries White Paper unveiled as Gove visits Peterhead

SFF chiefexecutive Bertie Armstrong with Environment Secretary Michael Gove at the new Peterhead fish market on Monday
SFF chiefexecutive Bertie Armstrong with Environment Secretary Michael Gove at the new Peterhead fish market on Monday

The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation has welcomed the White Paper on fisheries as a signal of intent from the UK Government to take back control of UK waters.

SFF chief executive Bertie Armstrong - who toured the new Peterhead Fishmarket with Environment Secretary Michael Gove on Monday - said the White Paper "enshrines the important elements of a sustainable future for our industry".

He said it would allow the UK to become an independent Coastal State, to take charge of who catches what and where and to resist any attempt to link access to our waters to access to EU markets.

Mr Armstrong commented: “Importantly, it also moves towards a system under which we can catch much more of our own natural resource, known as zonal attachment.

“We have been arguing for these key points consistently since the referendum in June 2016.

“Of course, there is a long way to go, and we now need our governments to show real backbone in the Brexit negotiations to ensure that these aspirations become reality.”

While the UK will continue to abide by Common Fisheries Policy rules during the implementation period, from 2020 the UK would be negotiating access to waters and fishing opportunities as an independent coastal state.

The white paper will set out a number of methods to explore fairer allocation of fishing opportunities, such as zonal attachment – which is based on distribution of fish stocks, rather than historical data.

Sitting at the heart of the white paper will be the UK Government’s commitment to sustainable fisheries, including ending the wasteful discarding of fish and making clear vessels will only be allowed to fish in our waters if they adhere to our high sustainability standards.

The paper will also commit to publishing an annual statement setting out the health of fish stocks and based on the latest scientific evidence. If stocks are struggling, the four UK fisheries Administrations, including Scotland, will work together to put in place a comprehensive recovery plan to restore them to healthy levels.

And, as set out in its 25-Year Environment Plan, the government will pursue an ecosystem approach to fisheries management that will minimise impacts on non-commercial species and the marine environment.

Banff and Buchan MP David Duguid said:“I was in Peterhead this week with Michael Gove and I know that the UK Government is united behind the content of this white paper.

“We have a tremendous opportunity as we leave the EU to take full control over our own waters for the first time in more than 40 years.

“That means securing a fairer deal for our fishermen, who at present land just 40% of the fish caught in our exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“I am sure that the publication of this paper will be welcomed by the industry, by my constituents and those in coastal communities across the UK.

“There is still a lot of work to be done, but this document charts a positive way forward for this vital sector as we leave the EU.”

Environment Secretary Michael Gove commented: “Leaving the EU creates a sea of opportunity for our fishing industry in Scotland. Outside the Common Fisheries Policy we can take back control of our waters and revitalise our coastal communities.

“We will be able to put in place our own systems, becoming a world leader in managing our resources while protecting the marine environment.

“We will work closely with everyone in Scotland who has an interest in this important industry to make the most of this historic opportunity.”

Also commenting on the White Paper, Scotland Secretary David Mundell said: “Leaving the EU provides us with a golden opportunity to develop Scotland’s fishing industry and ensure it has a thriving and sustainable future. This white paper is an important step towards achieving this.

“Our vision for UK fisheries can only be delivered if all four parts of the UK work in partnership with one another. The UK Government will continue working closely with the Scottish Government and other Devolved Administrations to develop a fishing policy that works for the whole of the UK.

“It is right that we are taking back control of our waters. Scotland’s fishing industry has a bright future outside of the EU.”