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Fish Processing Industry

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:59 pm on 2nd July 1999.

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Photo of Elaine Thomson Elaine Thomson Labour 12:59 pm, 2nd July 1999

I think that one of the Liberal Democrat members mentioned the other day that he thought that he was the only person in this Parliament who had worked in a fish factory. I am afraid that he was wrong. Like many Aberdeen students, I spent several summers working "in the fish", as it is known in that city. Having had first-hand experience of the fish processing industry, I am well aware not only of the industry's importance to Aberdeen, but of the sense of ownership and affection with which the people of Aberdeen regard the fishing industry as a traditional north-east industry.

As colleagues from all parties have said, we recognise the difficulties in which smaller fish processors find themselves through the implementation of the EU urban waste water treatment directive. I join my colleagues in welcoming the initiative of Aberdeen City Council and the Aberdeen Fish Curers and Merchants Association in the treatment of fish waste water. I hope that the proposal will meet environmental requirements and ensure not only the survival of smaller fish processors, but their economic viability.

We also have to recognise environmental concerns. Survey after survey has shown that the general public's prime concerns about water are clean beaches, clean seas, clean rivers and good-quality drinking water. My constituency of Aberdeen North is bounded on the east by the beach running up to Balmedie and on the south by the River Don. Those are valuable and valued resources for my constituents for recreation and sporting activities which demand a clean environment and clean water.

The directive is in response to the concern about the environmental health of our seas and marine environment. Many are worried about the health of the North sea and of the organisms within it, whether fish, shellfish or marine animals such as the dolphins in the Moray firth. We all want clean seas and a healthy marine environment with healthy fish. A healthy fish stock is also an essential requirement for the continuation of the fish processing industry.

We have to help the fish processing industry to continue to modernise so that it can more easily meet EU requirements and produce high-quality, high-value products to compete effectively with competitors in Europe and elsewhere.

I urge the ministers to consider sympathetically the fish waste water scheme proposed by Aberdeen City Council and AFCAMA and also to meet representatives of the fish processing industry so that we can meet the twin objectives of a healthy marine environment and a viable fish processing industry.