A petition by the SCFF to reinstate an inshore coastal limit on the use of dredge and trawl fishing gears will be heard by the Rural Affairs and Islands Committee

A petition by the SCFF to reinstate an inshore coastal limit on the use of dredge and trawl fishing gears will be heard by the Rural Affairs and Islands Committee

Clyde Fishermen’s Association concerned over how petition was laid by SCFF

The petition put forward by the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation (SCFF) to reinstate an inshore coastal limit on the use of dredge and trawl fishing gears will be heard before the Rural Affairs and Islands Committee tomorrow.

In an announcement today, the Rural Affairs and Islands Committee said they will hear evidence from Alastair Bally Philp, who is the SCFF representative and laid the petition on behalf of the group. This petitioner only hearing caused concern from the Communities Inshore Fisheries Alliance (CIFA) who were not notified of the Committee hearing despite being one of those who submitted a written submission to the petition.

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On enquiring why they had not been informed or invited to the Committee, they were told by the Clerk of the Committee that it was procedure to hear from anyone who laid a petition, and whilst they thought about widening it out, they decided it would be better to have a wider inshore decision later.

The proposal put forward by the SCFF in the petition would see bottom-fishing methods such as trawling and dredging banned from inside the three nautical mile limit on the coast of Scotland.

Mr Philp had  laid his petition through the Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee and not through the Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment (RAINE) Committee, although it was later referred to the latter, which also raised concerns as only on group with an interest in fisheries got to lodge a submission to the petition.

That group was the CIFA, who represent just under 400 inshore fishing vessels nationally. In their petition they said:

“We believe in developing regional and national policy which allows coastal communities to sustainably thrive, and we do not believe this petition’s outcomes would support these goals.”

They continued: “We would rather work transparently with Scottish Government and with Inshore Fisheries Groups to establish and develop sustainable management measures by majority consensus and partnership.

“We believe the frameworks already exist to allow sustainable and inclusive policies for fishing to be developed, indeed members of CIFA and other groups both fishing orientated and from the wider community including environmental NGOs have been able to engage change democratically through Inshore Fisheries Groups (IFGs), the Inshore Fisheries Management and Conservation (IFMAC) Group, Fisheries Management and Conservation Group (FMAC), and other governmental frameworks. Gear alterations, management and pilot projects can be established, they already exist. If some projects don’t gain majority support or if the resources are not available to practically deliver them then we understand we must either accept this decision or work on solutions through the current frameworks.”

Speaking to The Fishing Daily today, Elaine Whyte from the Clyde Fishermen’s Association said that

She had concerns about how the petition was laid as fishing groups were not informed of it through normal channels. She said: 

“Normally if something was coming up in regard to fishing, it would come through Rural Affairs. We accidentally came on this petition through the citizen space when I was searching a parliamentary website. I would have never of found it otherwise. 

“But it shows it shows the real concern because if you if you’ve only found out something that could influence everybody’s life by luck, that shouldn’t really be happening. 

“Then today we find out via a tweet from the Rural Affairs and Islands Committee that the SCFF is before them giving evidence. There was a decision they could take to involve other people, but they decided not to on this occasion, and that they would have wider discussions with the inshore sector in Parliament, but for this time they were just going to take information from Mr Philp.” 

Asked if she had any concerns if this one-sided hearing without challenges could be regarded as unfair, Elaine replied: 

“What they said to me, is that anyone who lays a petition has the opportunity to do that. 

“We would have liked an opportunity to have sat down at the same time to provide a counter structure for how we see things working. Obviously, we haven’t got that. We can only hope that the Committee is listening, but also takes everybody else’s views into account in equal measure. 

“Other insured communities as well, that their accounts are taking an equal measure in some form.” 

Elaine says that she is happy to sit down with any of the groups and discuss their concerns in a rational and open conversation. She concluded by saying it would have looked more balanced if more people with alternative points of view were sitting around the table. 

Mr Philp has been contacted to make a comment.

by Oliver McBride

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