White-fish Fleet (Illicit Activity)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 7th May 2020.

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Photo of Peter Chapman Peter Chapman Conservative

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism will be aware that our white-fish fleet is voluntarily restricting its days at sea to ensure that the market is supplied but not swamped. [

Temporary loss of sound.

] However, when they return to their traditional fishing grounds, they find line and gillnet vessels from Spain and France moving in on those traditional Scottish fishing areas and refusing to move. What on-sea support can the Scottish Government provide to our fishermen, who should not have to tolerate such inexcusable behaviour by foreign vessels?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

I caught the gist of the question but not all of it, so I apologise in advance if I do not respond in a way that reflects the totality of the question. I heard Mr Chapman say that arrangements had been made for white-fish vessels to operate in a co-ordinated fashion at the present time, to avoid swamping the market. My information is that those arrangements are broadly welcome.

I have discussed them with Scotland’s most senior fisheries official, and I understand that they are designed to have that salutary effect.

I am happy to speak to Mr Chapman about that, should he so wish.

The member’s second question is about illicit activity. Any illicit activity needs to be reported to Marine Scotland and marine protection vessels need to be deployed if necessary. The marine protection staff deal with any such incident. The press often raise those matters, although sometimes without specifying the details of the vessel or the type of infringement or encroachment.

I am happy to pursue the matter with Marine Scotland if Mr Chapman wishes to write to me with specific information. The staff who deal with fisheries protection, both in the vessels and onshore, are extremely professional and well regarded in fisheries circles. I am able to assert that they discharge their duties professionally and effectively.

The Presiding Officer:

I am conscious that four members still wish to get their questions in before 2 o’clock if possible, but Peter Chapman has a brief supplementary question.

Photo of Peter Chapman Peter Chapman Conservative

This is in case the cabinet secretary did not quite hear. My point was that, on sea, our white-fish vessels are encountering foreign vessels in their traditional grounds that refuse to move to allow them to come back to fish. We need to insist on maintaining the best possible opportunity for our fishermen in our traditional grounds.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

We wish to ensure that that happens, of course. Any illegal activity should be reported clearly and will be investigated by the relevant authorities.