Thank you for getting in touch with me about the Scottish Government’s proposed Future Catching Policy and the urgent need to put in place protections for our inshore waters.
The removal of the coastal limit on bottom trawling in 1984 has led to damage to our seabed habitats including fish spawning grounds and nurseries being destroyed and the collapse of many inshore fisheries. This in turn has led to the loss of vital economic opportunities for coastal communities. While Scotland currently has certain Marine Protected Areas, in practice I know concern has been raised that the protections do not go far enough and are not enforced properly.
There is a strong case for an Inshore Limit banning destructive and unsustainable fishing methods close to shore, such as scallop dredging and bottom trawling and I understand that a petition will be coming before Parliament on the matter. Any restrictions must be accompanied by a Just Transition to protect jobs and incomes. Fishermen must be supported through any changes and those directly impacted and membership organisations such as the Scottish Fisherman’s Federation and the Scottish White Fish Producers Association must be closely consulted.
Scottish Labour’s leader Anas Sarwar wrote to the First Minister last year about the government’s Future Catching Policy, calling for quotas to be used to reduce the use of fishing methods that cause environmental damage. However, it is disappointing that the SNP-Green coalition Government have so far failed to deliver on their manifesto commitments on sustainable fisheries.
Colin Smyth, Scottish Labour’s rural affairs spokesperson has also recently raised concerns in Parliament on wasteful discarding practices which are both environmentally damaging and frankly a shocking waste given many are juvenile fish thrown back because they are too small to market, reducing the next year’s catch. In particular he criticised the Scottish Green Party who appear to be tearing up their manifesto commitments on sustainable fisheries line by line since they entered government.
According to Our Seas, evidence indicates that more jobs and value can be generated by low impact inshore fisheries, when compared to damaging, fuel-intensive methods. The Scottish Government must respond to this, working to ensure that our waters are able to support as many jobs as possible, while protecting the environment and delivering a sustainable fisheries sector, so important to our coastal communities.
Please be assured that I and my Scottish Labour colleagues will continue to push for action to make this happen.