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Fisheries (Gear Conflict)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 4th December 2019.

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Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green

5. To ask the Scottish Government what steps it will take to reduce gear conflict in Scotland’s fisheries. (S5O-03861)

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government works closely with industry to facilitate better interaction among everyone who uses Scotland’s marine environment, including fishers. Our network of regional inshore fisheries groups, which take a collaborative and stakeholder-focused approach to improving the management of our inshore fisheries, are exploring solutions to improve sector harmony and thus reduce the risk of gear conflict.

That work builds on the recommendations from the gear conflict task force, including those on temporal and spatial separation methods and improvements to visibility and identification of static gear, which we will legislate for in due course.

Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green

The cabinet secretary will be aware of the work of the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation, which tells us:

“The removal of the three-mile limit has proven to be an unmitigated environmental and economic disaster of epic proportions.”

I appreciate the cabinet secretary’s response but, given that 85 per cent of gear conflict takes place within 3 miles of land, will he advise on when he expects a conclusion to the work that is taking place?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

I am aware of the importance of the work of members of the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation, as I am aware of the importance of the work that is carried out by all fishers across all sectors.

It is important to avoid any misrepresentation of the position. Gear conflict is not occurring during the majority of fishing trips and occasions; such instances are relatively isolated and not as widespread as Alison Johnstone’s question might suggest. We do not think that setting arbitrary limits is the way to proceed.

Spatial management and other methods of management are very helpful and appropriate. The regional inshore fisheries groups have been very successful, in particular the north-east group, which has engaged with industry representatives to explore solutions that will improve sector harmony. In addition, the programme to equip the scallop dredge sector with remote electronic monitoring systems will provide one of the most significant steps toward resolution of the differing interests between fisheries sectors. We are working hard across the board on a number of matters in that area, and we are happy to continue to work with all stakeholders and MSPs.

Photo of Peter Chapman Peter Chapman Conservative

The cabinet secretary must, surely, realise that there is also gear conflict between European Union boats and Scottish boats—especially around Shetland—and that the only practical way to reduce that gear conflict is to come out of the EU and the common fisheries policy and take back control of our waters.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

No. I do not agree. I noticed today in The Press and Journal that a leading member of the fishing community has said that that is precisely what would be against the interests of the Scottish fishing sector. Mr Chapman should go and read his newspaper, where he will see that fishermen are turning away from Brexit and from the glib and overexaggerated promises that have bored us for far too long.

Moreover, our fishermen are concerned about equivalence: measures that are imposed on them must also be applied to all other fishing vessels from across all nations. That is a factual matter, but we do not hear very much about factual matters from the Scottish Conservatives. [Interruption.]

Photo of Claudia Beamish Claudia Beamish Labour

I understand that use of GPS for fishing vessels for conflict resolution, compliance and research is already committed to by the Scottish Government. However, does the Scottish Government intend to create a clear definition of “fishing vessel”, which could include exemptions for very small vessels, such as rowing boats that carry a few creels? That would be helpful to Scottish Labour in making its decision about support for all vessels.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

I am sorry, but the Conservatives’ audible displeasure at my previous answer has meant that I did not hear the first part of Ms Beamish’s question. I am, therefore, not exactly sure what exemption she seeks, but I assure her that I will be very happy to read her question and give her a full answer in writing. I will extend that courtesy and consider her question sympathetically.