The Scottish Government has launched the ‘Scotland’s Future Catching Policy Consultation’ with the aim to improve fisheries management

The Scottish Government has launched the ‘Scotland’s Future Catching Policy Consultation’ with the aim to improve fisheries management

The Scottish Government has launched the ‘Scotland’s Future Catching Policy Consultation’ with the aim to improve fisheries management in the post-Common Fisheries Policy era.

This consultation seeks the views of stakeholders on Scotland’s Future Catching Policy (FCP), which will establish a new approach to managing sea fishing activities within Scottish waters and will ensure that the right management measures are in place to support reasonable and pragmatic decision making.

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Scotland’s Fisheries Management (FFM) Strategy1 set out a range of principles and commitments intended to deliver a sustainable and responsible approach to fisheries management in Scotland. This includes a commitment to deliver a robust catching policy, in partnership with stakeholders, which would introduce a range of technical and spatial improvements for fisheries vessels, reduce waste, and encourage compliance with legislation.

The development of the FCP will directly support a number of key principles contained within the FFM Strategy, most notably to improve accountability and confidence in sea fishing operations along with demonstrating transparency and credibility in the fisheries management decisions that are taken, and the rules and regulations that are in place.

In taking forward the FCP, Scottish Ministers will be delivering on their obligations under the by-catch objective of the Fisheries Act (2020) and commitments made within the Joint Fisheries Statement (JFS) specifically to ‘work in partnership with stakeholders to develop a range of management measures that support fishers to avoid unwanted catches of quota species to reduce unnecessary fish mortality and discarding of fish’ and ‘working with industry to reduce and, where possible, eliminate bycatch and entanglement of sensitive species’.

The main components of the FCP as set out within this consultation are:

  • To put in place additional technical (e.g. gear selectivity) and spatial (e.g. area closures to protect spawning fish) measures, designed to reduce unwanted catch of fish where these are required. Unwanted catch refers to elements of catch which fishers traditionally do not want to land and which would often be discarded. Implementation of effective technical and spatial measures may also help tackle instances of non-fish bycatch, for example, by helping fishers to take positive action to avoid bycatch of species such as seabirds, seals and cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises).
  • Any additional technical and spatial measures are anticipated to be introduced on a mandatory, rather than voluntary basis, therefore ensuring a level playing field for all vessels operating in a particular segment of the fishing fleet.
  • Measures developed in partnership with stakeholders through a co-management approach, will be reasonable and pragmatic, and adjusted to take account of differences between different parts of the fishing fleet. Any measures will help the fishing industry to fish responsibly and will support marketability of Scottish fish by demonstrating sustainability. They will also have considerable benefit for fish stocks by ensuring that fisher’s fish within sustainable limits, will reduce fishing pressure on unwanted catch, including of vulnerable or sensitive species, and will support improvements to biodiversity in Scottish waters.
  • In addition, the FCP will introduce a series of changes to current rules around discarding, which are currently set out under the landing obligation (which requires that all fish subject to quota limits are landed unless subject to an exemption). Taking a segment-by-segment approach, rather than applying a onesize-fits-all approach, will allow us to adjust and simplify existing exemptions and discarding rules to account for variations between fleet segments, whilst ensuring the principles of reducing waste and increasing accountability continue to be met.
  • Recognising increasing pressures on available marine space and tensions between some parts of the fishing fleet operating using different types of gear, the FCP consultation also seeks views on additional management measures which might be required for the gillnet and longline fisheries in order to address issues with displacement that can limit the ability of other vessels to avoid unwanted catch.

The Scottish Government proposes that the FCP should take a fleet segment approach, splitting fisheries into seven distinct segments and taking a tailored approach to addressing the individual issues with unwanted or accidental catch and discards associated with each of these segments. The “fleet segment” section further below outlines proposals for each fleet segment in detail, but the following bullets can be used to illustrate the measures being proposed:

  1. Pelagic fleet segment (pelagic trawls and purse seiners)

o Continue to land all fish

o Enhanced monitoring via Remote Electronic Monitoring (REM)

  1. Offshore whitefish fleet segment (large mesh demersal trawls and seine nets)

o Reduce unwanted catch through additional technical and spatial measures

o Land all marketable fish (fish above MCRS2 )

o Ability to discard small undersized fish through a blanket de minimis exemption on the proviso that this is fully accounted for

  1. Offshore mixed fleet segment (small mesh offshore demersal trawls)

o Reduce unwanted catch through additional technical and spatial measures o Land all marketable fish (fish above MCRS) o Ability to discard small undersized fish through a blanket de minimis exemption on the proviso that this is fully accounted for

  1. Small inshore mobile fleet segment (small mesh inshore demersal trawls and small mesh seine nets)

o Further reduce unwanted catch through selectivity improvements and spatial measures where required

o Ability to discard small undersized fish (below MCRS) through a blanket de minimis exemption on the proviso that this is fully accounted for

o Ability to discard larger whitefish through a tailored de minimis exemption on the proviso that this is fully accounted for and with the justification of avoiding disproportionate costs

  1. Scallop fleet segment

o Non quota species so not subject to landing obligation although some quota species may be caught which would be subject to discarding rules

o Support scallop fishing in Scottish waters at sustainable levels o Support the further roll-out of enhanced monitoring

  1. Pots and creels fleet segment

o Low levels of unwanted fish catch in the fishery with discards currently allowed under high survivability grounds.

o Support shell-fishing in Scottish waters at sustainable levels

o Non quota species are not subject to landing obligation

o Other measures may be required to reduce instances of entanglements and accidental bycatch of cetaceans and other marine species

  1. Gillnet and longline fleet segment

o Consider additional rules to maximise use of shared marine space and minimise gear conflict

o Other measures may be required to reduce instances of entanglements and accidental bycatch of other marine species including seabirds

The full consultation can be found by clicking on the Scotland’s Future Catching Policy Consultation below.

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Scotland’s Future Catching Policy Consultation now open

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