I discussed that with members of the Western Isles Fishermen’s Association on Friday 8 November in Tarbert. I want to support the wellbeing, diversity and positive development of our coastal communities, including those in Dr Allan’s constituency.
A bluefin tuna tagging programme is under way and I am delighted that it has been awarded an EMFF grant through the Western Isles fisheries local action group. The Government intends not only to support a tagging programme but to seek a small quota that is primarily designed for sport and recreational fishing activities.
Going back to the negotiations, the annual meeting of the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission took place last week in London. There, agreement was reached on a number of proposals that aim to ensure conservation and optimum utilisation of fisheries resource in the international waters of the NEAFC regulatory area. This year, a significant achievement was the tabling of the European Union’s proposal to introduce a cap on all parties that fish mackerel in international waters. That was one of my key objectives, and it was a move led by Scotland because, in the absence of full-party agreements for pelagic stocks, uncontrolled fishing in international waters is the biggest risk of unsustainable fishing. Although it was not adopted this year, I regard the tabling of such a proposal as an extremely positive step, and one that I hope and intend for us to work with other parties to enact in future, in the interests of having sustainable fisheries.
This year’s EU-Norway negotiations are under way in London as I speak, and a second round is scheduled to take place in Norway at the beginning of December. On the setting of total allowable catches for jointly managed stocks, Scottish officials are working tirelessly with colleagues across the EU and Norway to establish the necessary multinational response to deal with the very difficult scientific advice that is involved. I am especially encouraged that both the industry and the non-governmental organisations have indicated their support for our negotiating strategy for our overall objectives for those negotiations. In particular, that applies to the two-stage approach to the challenging North Sea cod situation. Not that many years ago, such a united position between the industry and the NGOs could not have been achieved; much credit is due to all who have been involved and who have agreed to set aside their differences to put forward a common front.
We also have a number of quota exchanges with Norway. Again, our priority is to secure a fair and balanced exchange of fishing opportunities that does not disadvantage our own vessels while mitigating choke risks.
I turn to the EU-Faroe Islands consultations, which are scheduled to take place on 9 and 10 December. Agreement in that forum allows quota and access opportunities to Faroese waters for our white-fish fleet. My aim is to ensure a balanced outcome for Scotland, with all elements of the agreement truly on the negotiating table, and any arrangements for 2020 delivering a fair and proportionate outcome for all sectors.
I will certainly give way.