The CIFA has responded to the SCFF decision to lodge for judicial review petition
The Communities of Inshore Fisheries Alliance (CIFA) has responded to the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation (SCFF) decision to lodge a petition for judicial review against the Scottish Government in the Court of Session.
The SCFF claim the legal issue behind this judicial review is the handling of the Scottish Government’s Inshore Fisheries Pilot Programme; specifically its decision to refuse a pilot proposal for the Inner Sound of Skye.
There have been concerns amongst some in the fishing sector that the SCFF had not exhausted the formal Inshore Fisheries Groups (IFG’s) route before seeking to take the issue before the courts.
In their briefing notes the SCFF say that in 2015 the Scottish Government announced an Inshore Fisheries Pilot Programme under which local fishery organisations could offer up proposals to pilot measures separating mobile and static gears.
The stated objective of the Pilot Programme was to improve the evidence base to guide future inshore fisheries policy.
In the Marine Scotland Pilot Guidance it is stated categorically that submitted proposals “will be considered on the basis of” five given criteria. These include ‘improving the evidence base’.
The North West Responsible Fishermen’s Association (NWRFA) a regional creeling organisation and a member of SCFF put forward a proposal for a Pilot in the Inner Sound of Skye.
The Pilot was designed to create separate zones for trawlers and creelers in order to study the respective economic and environmental performances of these two forms of fishing for Nephrops as well as trialling local management.
The Pilot was designed to provide important and potentially unique evidence with national implications for the management of our Nephrops fishery.
Other proposals were put forward by other fishery groups around Scotland to examine other issues coming out of gear separation in other fisheries. There were no other proposals looking at gear separation in the Nephrops fishery.
The SCFF say, the proposed Skye Pilot was designed to provide evidence on the environmental and economic benefits of creeling as opposed to trawling in Scotland’s important inshore Nephrops fishery and that this legal challenge highlights an important concern about the way inshore fisheries are managed by Marine Scotland and an apparent gap between policy and practice.
The Key Points of the SCFF’s review are:
- With the assistance of Fish Legal, SCFF has lodged a petition for judicial review of the decision by the Scottish Government to refuse the application by the North West Responsible Fishermen’s Association (NWRFA) for a fisheries Pilot in the Inner Sound of Skye.
- The NWRFA Pilot proposal was submitted under the Scottish Government’s Inshore Fisheries Pilots programme, which was designed to trial different aspects of gear restriction (separating mobile and static fishing gear) in order to improve the evidence informing inshore fisheries management
- The NWRFA Pilot was specifically designed to examine what environmental and economic benefits may be obtained in a ‘creel only’ zone as opposed to a ‘trawl only’ zone in the Nephrops fishery. The Nephrops is a large prawn and is Scotland’s second most valuable catch.
- The Nephrops creel fishery is a ‘low impact high value’ fishery that supplies the valuable live langoustine market. The Nephrops trawl fishery is a ‘high impact low value fishery’ that supplies the scampi market. There is a growing concern that Nephrops trawling has caused the chronic decline in west coast fish populations because of its very high levels of bycatch.
- The grounds for the judicial review are that Marine Scotland, (the executive agency responsible for managing Scotland’s fisheries) refused the Inner Sound Pilot based on the results of a public consultation rather than applying the criteria that their own pilot programme guidance had set out as the basis on which applications would be determined. Consultation responses were dominated by members of the trawl industry who will object, as a matter of course, to any restriction on their freedom to trawl.
- SCFF has a wider concern that this case follows a pattern that suggests that the mobile sector wields too much influence with Marine Scotland and thus that the management of our fisheries appears more aligned with the interests of the mobile sector than with the public interest or fisheries policy under the National Marine Plan.
The SCFF claim “This judicial review is ultimately about the Scottish Government doing what they say they are going to do. In this case, the crucial issue is understanding the relationship between protection of key marine ecology and a maintaining a healthy fishing economy. This briefing note is headed by a quote from Nicola Sturgeon that indicates that the Scottish Government understands the importance of that relationship; the issue of obtaining evidence of that relationship, for fisheries management purposes, is at the heart of this Judicial Review. Readers can assess for themselves whether the First Minister’s words are mere lip-service or whether she and her government mean what they say. This judicial review is therefore also about trust and confidence in the Scottish government’s policies.”
Alistair Sinclair, national coordinator of the SCFF said that the Federation is acting “after years of frustration” in dealings with both Holyrood and its Marine Scotland agency, and “Our marine environment continues to be failed by civil servants.”
In relation to the SCFF decision the CIFA made a statement to The Fishing Daily and said:
“CIFA would support all fishermen having a voice through the Government’s IFG, but recognise that some policies will be supported and progress whilst some may not for various valid reasons, this is something we generally accept. We however still feel it is the best and fairest framework we currently have to work with which is inclusive.”