Thank you, Presiding Officer. I will go back to what I was saying.
“going along with the CFP”.
Even the SNP’s independence white paper said that an independent Scotland in the EU would be in the common fisheries policy. Make no mistake: if the SNP Government gets its way, it will lock our fishermen into the already intolerable CFP.
All that is in direct contrast to the view of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, which wants real change to the current common fisheries policy and sees Brexit as the opportunity to revisit the decision to allow all European vessels to fish between 12 and 200 nautical miles off the UK. Indeed, many people see leaving the CFP as a chance to redress the situation for the benefit of Scotland’s fishing communities.
I see a real opportunity for change in all our fishing communities, including our inshore fisheries communities, to improve management and work towards a fully transparent and sustainable industry while addressing the need to ensure a healthy and sustainable marine environment.
Only yesterday, I was fortunate enough to visit Shetland to see the commendable and impressive way in which the various stakeholders have worked together on their marine plan to ensure an economically and environmentally sustainable marine environment. There was also acknowledgement of the potential £1 billion increase in landings and the predicted positive impact, which has resulted in sufficient confidence to enable the local authority to fund a new fish market.
I welcome the cabinet secretary’s mention of GPS on scallop boats. In the past, I have spoken about the need for new technology on our boats, which could play a part in addressing illegal fishing. Therefore, I am pleased that the UK Government has announced a fisheries technology fund, which should help to transform the industry using research and innovation.
In Shetland, I heard about new satellite and drone technologies that will assist in detecting areas with high nutrient levels, which will help to identify the best locations for mussel farms. That same technology can be used to better predict where the target fish shoals are, which will make a massive difference in relation to discard bans, as we are reaching the limits when it comes to net technology.
Those technologies might result in fewer fishermen on our boats, but that should not result in fewer jobs in our fishing and rural communities. We need to ensure that science and technology jobs are located in rural areas. We have a real opportunity to revitalise our coastal communities while setting the highest standards of marine conservation, which will allow for additional jobs in the industry and an environmental and sustainable future for Scotland.
I wish the cabinet secretary well for next week’s meeting, because it can play a vital role, and not just in ensuring fit-for-purpose quotas; it should also be an opportunity to step up the engagement to deliver the industry’s aspirations for the future.
As deputy convener of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, I believe that it is vital that the Parliament plays its part in delivering for our fishing industry and the communities and businesses that are involved in it. We need a successful outcome for jobs, economic activity and sustainable production in order to enhance our natural environment and deliver for our fishermen and the future of our coastal communities.