The Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation (SCFF) claims they were misrepresented on issue of proposed exclusion zones for mobile gear

The SCFF claims they were misrepresented on issue of proposed exclusion zones for mobile gear

The Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation has written a response to claims they are seeking a ban of mobile fishing gear inside the 3-nautical mile limit on the west coast and the 12-nautical mile limit on the east coast of Scotland.

The Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation (SCFF) hit out at claims by the Executive Secretary of the Clyde Fishermen’s Association, that they were seeking to remove mobile gear to make way for creel fishing and diving. SCFF National Coordinator Alistair ‘Bally’ Philip says their members took exception to the comments made in The Fishing Daily article “Small-scale fishing at a loss to highly-funded NGOs says Association leader” on their proposal and on the issue that they secured funding of over £400,000 from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

In a rebuttal of the comments made by Elaine Whyte of the Clyde Fishermen’s Association, the SCFF write:

“We are writing in response to an article you published that focused on the concerns of Elaine White head of the Clyde Fisherman’s association (CFA).

The article features claims relating to the Scottish Creel Fisherman’s Federation (SCFF) and others, some of which were inaccurate. We would like to express our concerns and also take the opportunity to offer a different perspective than the one offered by Elaine.

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It is no secret that the SCFF have secured funding from several sources, this is something for which we make no apology. We represent and advocate for the interests of some of Scotland’s smallest scale commercial fishers. We are run by those fishermen and advocate for the interests of those fishermen. We complete the applications for grants like anyone else and we sincerely appreciate the financial assistance that ensures our sector of the inshore fishing industry can afford to be represented.

Elaine’s statement that the SCFF are “calling for a three mile limit on the west coast and a 12 mile limit on the east” is inaccurate.

This is a misunderstanding of what we mean when we say; a series of large static gear zones or ‘boxes’ reaching to in excess of 12 miles from shore. Although we mention 12 miles, we mention this in the context of possibly introducing a series of offshore static gear ‘boxes’. The key words being zones or ‘boxes’. It may even be the case that some static gear boxes might begin many miles from the shore and that they will reach out much further than 12. Just to be clear we are not proposing a 12 mile blanket restriction on the east coast.

Extract from SCFF submission (PE1951/F) to the parliamentary committee.

‘SCFF are not asking for the old three-mile limit, but rather a variation of that limit i.e. something different but on a similar scale. The appropriate spatial management for each region should reflect that area’s habitats and fishing patterns. E.g. 90% of all creels deployed in the west coast inshore would be encapsulated by a three-mile limit, this is not true of the east coast where much of the creel sector work further offshore. Accordingly, the type of spatial management that would optimise the jobs and maximise ecosystem recovery on our east coast would most likely be a series of large static gear zones or ‘boxes’ reaching to in excess of 12 miles from shore. Each of Scotland’s regions and island groups should have spatial management plans that reflect their specific circumstances.’

We hope the above quote clears up any misunderstanding.

It’s encouraging that Elaine states quite clearly that “A three mile limit on the west coast would be robust enough, but a 12 mile limit on the east coast would be insane”. Because it now becomes clear that despite Elaine’s misunderstanding of the situation, we appear to agree on the fundamentals.

Where SCFF and CFA appear to differ most, is in our understandings of what the forces are that are motivating the SCFF and many others to propose introducing extensive spatial management in the first place.

Where Elaine sees a conspiracy of Government, eNGO’s, incomers and those with green agendas, trying to ‘circumvent proper procedure’. We see the predictable reaction of many inshore static gear fishermen and wider society to decades of inept inshore fisheries management.

In the context of Scotland’s national and international commitments to address the climate and biodiversity crisis, to reach net zero asap and protect at least 30% of our seas by 2030. It becomes clear that this is not a conspiracy at all, this is the playing out of the proper processes that are in place to ensure that we meet those commitments.

During the 2017 Scottish inshore fisheries conference, the SCFF presented our vision of future spatial management, which in part sought to facilitate the new regulations under Article 17 of the 2014 reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). We also proposed that there should be funding for the smallest inshore mobile gear fishers that were most likely to bear the brunt of the policies in the reformed CFP.

Now that the 2020 UK fisheries Act has replaced the CFP and that Act also enshrines the requirement for preferential access for lower impact and more selective gears, we reiterate our proposal here.

We believe that inshore fishermen’s representatives should work together and with whichever organisations offer their support to ensure that there is appropriate funding made available to facilitate the required transition in a just and fair manner. Again, we agree with Elaine that the smallest inshore mobile gear boats could be the worst affected by the coming changes. However where we differ is that we believe; with appropriate planning, spatial management and funding, that it should be possible to compensate those worst affected and ensure that there is an opportunity for impacted fishermen to transition into alternative inshore fisheries.

Our original 2017 proposal suggested £100k per impacted inshore vessel would be a good starting point for this conversation. That proposal is now dated. What concerns us most about Elaine’s stance on this, is that she perceives the eNGO’s and other non fishing organisations that back us on this as ‘anti commercial fishing’. A stance that we think is counter productive. Because if we don’t all work together, to facilitate a just transition, but instead fight amongst ourselves, there’s a real danger inshore fishermen will not get any financial support at all.

Spatial squeeze is only going to get worse, with the Marine Protected Areas, the Highly Protected Marine Areas, the expanding renewables industry, the commitments to 30% protection by 2030 and net zero. The inshore fishing industry can either anticipate and wherever possible embrace those inevitable changes, try and do our best to navigate the challenges such that we maximise the employment and returns to our local communities. Or we attempt to resist the inevitable and risk going down with the ship. We at the SCFF chose the former and sincerely hope Elaine and the mobile gear fishers of the CFA that she represents, will work together with us to realise that ambition.”

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SCFF claims misrepresentation on proposed exclusion zones for mobile gear

by editor time to read: 8 min